Russia pays gas transit bill to resolve row with Belarus

Russia has paid a debt to Belarus after a threat by Minsk to cut the flow of gas supplies into Europe. Earlier, Russian gas giant Gazprom had resumed fuel supplies to Belarus.

Russian gas giant Gazprom said that it had paid off its gas transit debt to Belarus after the country set a deadline to shut off gas supplies to Europe.

Belarus was seeking a payment of 212 million euros ($260 million) in transit fees to pipeline operator Beltrangaz for the use of its network to export gas.

"The payment to Beltransgaz for gas transit has now been made," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.

Belarus had earlier paid the company its own outstanding bill for gas, with Moscow resuming gas supplies to the country. Belarusian First Deputy Premier Vladimir Semashko said the 156 million euros owed to Gazprom had paid been as a "matter of goodwill" and set a deadline for the company to pay its debt.

"I demand that by 10 am tomorrow it pays accumulated debt," Semashko said on Wednesday, adding that if payment is not received from Gazprom, "we will be forced to stop the transit of hydrocarbons across Belarusian territory."

On Wednesday, Russian gas giant Gazprom said that gas supplies to Belarus would be resumed after receiving payment.

Telephone conversation

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev was informed of the decision by Alexei Miller, head of the state-controlled Gazprom, the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass reported.

In a telephone conversation, Miller told Medvedev that "the Belarusian side fully paid for gas supplies according to the contract and Gazprom took the decision to renew full gas supplies to Belarus."

Russia had reduced gas supplies to 60 percent of the normal level, insisting that Minsk should pay its debt immediately. Moscow had threatened to continue to reduce gas flow further if the bill was not settled.

Russia, the world's largest energy exporter, supplies some 25 percent of Europe's gas needs, with some four-fifths flowing through Ukraine and one-fifth through Belarus.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP/dpa/Reuters)

Editor: Rob Turner


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