Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered state-controlled Gazprom to reduce the gas flow to Belarus over its debt for Russian natural-gas supplies.
Gazprom had earlier threatened to reduce by 85 percent its gas supplies to Belarus from today unless Minsk paid $192 million in debts.
Belarus has denied it owes the money.
Medvedev also told Gazprom head Aleksei Miller to continue talks with a Belarusian delegation that is visiting Moscow today in a last-minute bid to resolve the row.
"They must pay in accordance with the contract," Medvedev said after his meeting with Miller. "The contract calls for payments in foreign hard currency. Anything else simply contradicts our hard-currency laws. Gazprom cannot accept anything else -- neither pies, nor butter, nor cheese, nor pancakes, nor anything else can serve as payment. Our Belarusian partners have to understand this."
Gazprom has said it does not believe any gas cutoff to Belarus will disrupt Russian supplies to western Europe, as only a fraction of Russian supplies transit through Belarus and seasonal demand is now low.