Lukashenko attacks Russia, says trade pact ready

* Lukashenko says Minsk had ratified customs union

* Accuses Russia of lies in the latest gas dispute

MINSK, July 3 (Reuters) - Belarus's combative leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Saturday his government had ratified all documents to set up a trade pact sought by Russia while accusing Moscow of "lies" in the latest gas dispute.

Lukashenko, a former top ally of the Kremlin on Russia's western flank who has since become one of Moscow's harshest critics, has dramatically raised the stakes during the latest dispute over gas pricing with Moscow last month.

Russia triggered the row by saying it would halt gas to Minsk over a relatively small amount of debt for gas supplies.

Analysts have said the move was meant to punish Lukashenko, criticised in the West for authoritarian rule, for not joining a customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan and for giving refuge to a former Kyrgyz president.

Lukashenko retaliated by saying Russia owed Minsk more money and threatened to halt Russian oil and gas transit flows to Europe, reviving EU memories of similar cuts of the past years which have tarnished Russia's image as a reliable supplier.

The dispute was resolved when Moscow and Minsk repaid debts to each other and signed a new gas transit deal.

Last week, Russia and Kazakhstan launched their customs union in the first step towards creating of an ex-Soviet common market for 160 million people, a plan that has sparked criticism from the West over protectionism.

Russia said the door was still open for Belarus despite the recent dispute but Lukashenko said on Saturday Minsk had ratified all documents.

"I must tell you that as far as the customs union is concerned, we are not behind Russia or Kazakhstan even by half a step or by a millimetre," Lukashenko said.

He repeatedly attacked Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom and Russian state media for their coverage of the latest gas crisis.

"What we have seen recently were huge lies about what was going on with debts. No one said that Gazprom owed us more," said Lukashenko. Gazprom had long denied it owed money to Belarus but later said Minsk had blocked its payments.

"They (in Russia) are rudely but professionally falsifying everything we say and make us look like idiots. Do they expect me to be silent?" he asked.

Belarus will hold presidential elections next year and Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, has pledged to keep raising state wages and salaries.

That leaves him vulnerable to Moscow, which has begun scrapping subsidised energy exports to its neighbours.

Russia's energy subsidies to Belarus amount to $7 billion a year as Minsk pays the lowest price among Russian gas customers.

Minsk has bridled at recent increases, saying it should pay less if Moscow is serious about closer ties. Lukashenko has also courted the West and sought other energy sources.

(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky, writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov, editing by Michael Roddy)


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