Russia warns Belarus to pay its gas debt or face cuts in supplies
The Associated Press
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev warned Belarus on Tuesday that it must pay its debt for Russian natural gas supplies within five days or face cuts.
Medvedev spoke Tuesday at a meeting with the head of Russian state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom, who said a contract allows the company to reduce gas supplies to Belarus for its failure to cover the $200 million debt.
Medvedev said in televised comments that Belarus should be given five days to settle the debt or face sanctions.
Belarus' economy has been struggling to cope with rising Russian natural gas prices and excise hikes on Russian oil imports. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has insisted that Russia provide it with cheap oil and gas as part of the customs union deal to come into force July 1, but Moscow has rejected the demand.
Russia is Belarus' main ally and sponsor, but relations between the two former Soviet countries have been strained by financial arguments. Lukashenko has accuses the Kremlin of trying to subdue Belarus and acquire key industrial assets.