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  Negotiations between Moscow and Minsk concerning the payment for gas came to nought

2010 06 22

From 10 am on Monday, 21 June, Gasprom imposed restrictions on the supply of gas to Belarus for 15%. Later the percentage is going to be subsequently increased up to 85%. Such strict measures were taken in response to the reluctance of Minsk to cover the indeptedness for gas in USD 200 million.

On Monday, early in the morning, Minsk took the last attempt in trying to settle the gas supply issue with Russia: negotiations between the Gasprom Authorities and the Belarusian delegation, headed by Anatolij Filonov, the Deputy Minister of the Economy, took place in Moscow.

However, as it was reported later, the negotiations came to nought. “Belarus recognises the debt for gas, but offers to cover it by cars, equipment and other goods”, - reported the Head of Gasprom Aleksej Miller to the President Dmitrij Medvedev.

Moreover, foreign accounts may be only accepted in foreign currency, otherwise it contradicts the Russian legislation. “Gasprom cannot accept payment for the debt in other goods – neither in cakes nor butter, cheese or anything else”, - said the President. To the question raised by Medvedev “what is Gasprom suggesting in relation to this issue”, Miller answered that “following the provisions of the contract Gasprom is entitled to impose restrictions on gas supply in proportion to the amount of the debt”.

“Start the corresponding procedure, retaining mutual actions with Belarusian partners urging them to carry out their obligations under the contract, and pursuant to the rules applied by Gasprom to other contra-agents”, - said the President.

According to the words of Miller, Gasprom is going to impose such measures “gradually, by days and in proportion to the amount of the debt”. He specified also, that starting from the 21st June the restricted regime for gas supply is 15% with the subsequent increase up to 85%.

At the same time Minsk has unexpectedly announced that the Belarusian debt for gas is equal to the debt of Gasprom for transit – both are approximately in the amount of USD 200 million. The first Deputy Minister of Energy of Belarus Eduard Tovpenec has not discounted the fact that possible sanctions from the Russian side “will hit the issues of transit”. Gasprom has called this statement as “ineffectual attempt to create an offside”.

Problems should not arise with regards to the transit issues – the restrictions of gas supply will not affect gas supply to Europe.

“I assume that these issues should be taken very easily. There are technical possibilities to supply gas via the Ukraine to Poland” – said the Head of Gasprom Miller to the journalists, noting that lately many European countries are cutting their request for gas.

Disaccord between Moscow and Minsk concerning the indebtedness of Belarus for the Russian gas may not be the last. Miller does not discount the fact that the neighbouring republic may become a chronic debtor due to economic difficulties.

Material has been prepared by the Centre of Geopolitical Studies with reference to the article from «ВЗГЛЯД» of 21 06 2010


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