Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said on Tuesday it had cut its supplies to Belarus further over debts, while Belarus threatened to siphon off gas from the transit pipeline to Europe in a new energy row between the two ex-Soviet republics.
The Russian giant decreased its Belarus supplies 15 percent on Monday over a $200 million debt Minsk has accumulated since the start of the year and further cut its supplies to 30 percent on Tuesday.
"Over the past twenty-four hours, Belarus has not taken any steps to repay the debts for the delivery of Russian natural gas and from 10 hours in the morning of June 22, a 30 percent cut in planned gas supplies to Belarus was introduced," Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said on Tuesday.
Belarus refuses to pay the Russian gas price, set at $169 per 1,000 cubic meters for the first quarter of the year and $185 for the second quarter, and has been paying $150 since Jan. 1 instead.
Belarusian Energy Ministry spokeswoman Lyudmila Zenkovich said Belarus had started to receive 30 percent less natural gas from Russia from Tuesday morning while another source in the ministry said Belarus was actively working on the re-distribution of the remaining gas volumes to prevent negative developments in the country's industrial sector.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told a news conference that Belarus was threatening to start taking gas from the transit pipeline to Europe.
"We have received a letter from Belarus First Deputy Prime Minister Semashko without any specific proposals on debt repayment. The letter contains a threat that Belarus will start taking gas from the transit pipe for the needs of the national economy, if there are further cuts in gas supplies," he said.
Gazprom Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev sought to calm European consumers who fear that the dispute might leave them with lesser gas volumes than agreed.
"We will do everything we can to ensure that our European consumers are not affected," he said.
He said that Gazprom had a plan to prevent falling supplies to Europe, which included a team of observers.
"So that everyone could see who violates and what he violates," he said.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that Russia could use other routes, including via the Ukrainian pipeline, to transport gas to Europe.
MOSCOW, June 22 (RIA Novosti)