Russia and Belarus put gas war behind them with additional contract

Moscow/Minsk - Russia and Belarus have ended their gas dispute by signing an additional contract on the transport of gas to the West, the Belarus gas company Beltrangas said Friday.

Beltrangas has signed an agreement raising the price that Russian state company Gazprom will pay for the transport of its gas, Beltrangas director Vladimir Mayorov told the news agency Interfax.

From now on, Russia will pay 1.88 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres of gas to be transported 100 kilometres instead of the 1.45 dollars it had previously paid.

Belarus had previously accused Gazprom of failing to pay transit fees of 260 million dollars and threatened to turn off pipes supplying EU countries.

Lithuania would have been most affected, since all of its gas transits through Belarus.

The Russian gas giant ended up making a 228-million-dollar payment for transit fees.

During the dispute, Belarus also settled a 187-million-dollar bill for gas that Gazprom said it had not paid. Prior to that, Gazprom had reduced gas deliveries to Belarus by 60 per cent - raising worries about customers in Europe also being affected.

Observers suspect that Moscow was using the dispute to try to force its financially precarious neighbour into a three-way customs union with Kazakhstan.

The authoritarian Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, is expected to sign the documents pertaining to the union at a meeting of the three country's leaders in the Kazakh capital Astana next week at the latest.

The Belarusian parliament has already ratified the union agreement.


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