Minsk acknowledges receipt of Gazprom's transit fee payment (Update 4)

Minsk acknowledged the receipt of Gazprom's $228 million transit fee payment after Russia resumed full gas supplies to Belarus early on Thursday.

The Russian state-run gas giant paid the fees after the company's chief executive Alexei Miller said earlier on Thursday that Belarus had settled its gas supply debts of $200 million accrued since the start of the year.

He said Gazprom resumed full gas supplies to Belarus at 10:00 Moscow time [07:00 GMT].

However, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said the $228 million was only an advance payment, or 87% of the total $260 million owed to Belarus, and the country would suspend gas transit to the EU unless Moscow paid all that it owed.

Miller said the price is different from that stipulated in the current contract.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with Euronews TV channel that there had been grounds for the Russia-Belarus gas dispute, which he described as a "gas war" earlier this week.

"It is an absolutely groundless dispute," he said. "What is most important, though, is that it broke out when Gazprom owed us $260 million for transit, and we owed them $190 million, or even $187 million."

"They [Gazprom] admitted their debt, and we paid them the $187 million," he added.

Lukashenko said that when Minsk asked Moscow for a two-week postponement of their debt repayment, they were told "No, we won't wait another day."

Belarus's officials said it would take up to 10 hours to resume full gas transits to the EU.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said Gazprom had sent a "large package of documents" to Minsk authorizing higher transit fees via Belarusian territory on condition of higher local gas prices to Belarus's pipeline company Beltransgaz.

EU spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said Gazprom had verbally notified the European Commission that the "gas war" between Russia and Belarus was over.

"We have received verbal confirmation from Gazprom that the dispute has been resolved... although we do not have any official confirmation from the Russian government yet," she said.

"We understand that the flow of gas to Europe via Belarus is returning to normal," she added.

Holzner said Lithuanian gas supplies from Russia, cut by 50% on Wednesday, had now been fully restored and commended Ukraine for supplying Poland with gas from its own reserves.

Gazprom reduced gas supplies to Belarus by 15% on Monday, increasing the cuts to 30% on Tuesday and then 60% on Wednesday.

The dispute erupted as a result of Minsk refusing 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. The country has been paying only $150 since January 1.

MOSCOW, June 24 (RIA Novosti)


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