By Anna Shiryaevskaya
May 21 (Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, Russia's natural-gas export monopoly, said Belarus is refusing to pay agreed prices for fuel supplies, as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart meet for economic talks today.
Belarus owes $192 million for gas so far this year, Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesman, said today. He said the debt expanded by $55 million to that level after Beltransgaz, the state pipeline operator half-owned by Gazprom, underpaid today.
Beltransgaz spokesman Vladimir Chekov didn't answer his office or mobile phones when called by Bloomberg.
Putin said in March that Belarus will receive $4.2 billion in Russian subsidies this year through lower-than-market gas prices and tax-free oil deliveries. Gazprom also paid $625 million this year for 12.5% of Beltransgaz, whose pipelines carry about a fifth of Russia's Europe-bound gas exports.
"Beltransgaz decided to pay for supplies not at the contract price, but at a price it determined by itself," Kupriyanov said. At the current rate, the debt may reach $500 million to $600 million this year, he said. "The unfolding situation concerns us greatly."
Gazprom will charge Belarus an average of $171.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas this year, Interfax reported March 26, citing the Russian gas exporter.
Putin is meeting with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky and counterparts in the Eurasian Economic Union, which also includes the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
--Editors: Torrey Clark, Rob Verdonck
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