Gazprom to resume gas supplies as Minsk clears debt

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom confirmed Thursday that Belarus had fully paid its gas debt, and thus it would resume gas supplies in full, said the company's CEO Alexei Miller to President Dmitry Medvedev as reported by Russian media.

"Miller told the president by telephone that the Belarusian side has fully paid for gas shipments in line with the contract and that Gazprom has made the decision to resume full-scale gas deliveries to Belarus," said Kremlin spokeswoman Natalia Timakova in Washington.

Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said in Minsk Wednesday that 187 million U.S. dollars has been transferred to Russian gas giant Gazprom, fully paying its debt for gas, which was not confirmed by Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov the same day.

The row between Moscow and Minsk started a few weeks ago when Gazprom asked its Belarusian counterpart Beltransgaz to pay its arrears for 2010, which amounted to some 200 million U.S. dollars. Starting from this week, the brawl had been gradually escalating as Gazprom increasingly cut the blue fuel supply to Belarus.

In response to the gas cut, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday ordered to close gas transit to Europe via Belarus, "until Gazprom pays the debt for the transit."

One day later, Minsk demanded payment from Gazprom for gas transit by 11 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday (0700 GMT), otherwise it would stop the Russian gas supplies to Europe.

However, Miller told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Novokuznetsk Thursday that the resumption of gas shipments to Belarus does not fully settle the situation, as the transit money Minsk has asked for does not match the contract.

He also said Belarus on Wednesday and Thursday has already siphoned off up to 20 percent of gas transit.

Putin in turn said Gazprom's payment for gas transit must comply with the contract, and all disputes should be settled via negotiations.

Belarus is a transit country for part of Russian gas exports to Europe. A similar dispute between Moscow and Kiev early last year left some European countries short of heating fuel in deep winter.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek earlier that the irregularities in Russian gas supplies and transit across Belarus will not last long.


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