Gazprom reduces gas supply to Belarus by 30 percent: company
(MOSCOW) - Russia on Tuesday reduced natural gas supplies to Belarus by 30 percent after Minsk failed to settle a debt, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said.
"Belarus has not undertaken any action to settle the debt for Russian gas supplies over the past day," Miller said.
"From 10 am on 22 June we are bringing in a reduction of 30 percent on the daily volume of supplies of Russian gas to Belarus," Miller said in televised remarks.
The company reduced gas supplies on Monday by 15 percent of the daily volume and Miller said the gas cuts would be increased to 85 percent in the coming days if a solution to the conflict was not found.
At a news conference later Tuesday, Gazprom said that Belarus had threatened to start siphoning off Europe-bound gas if Russia continued to ramp up energy supply cuts.
"We have received a letter from Belarus's first deputy prime minister Vladimir Semashko," company spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told a news conference.
"The letter ends essentially in a threat that in the event of further cuts of gas supply to Belarus they will undertake activities related to the removal of gas from the transit system," he said in comments posted on the website of Vesti-24 television channel.
In Belarus, the government confirmed it had sent a letter to Gazprom, saying it would be forced to start removing Europe-bound energy supplies to cover its domestic needs should Russia continue to cut gas supplies.
In the letter signed off by Semashko, the government said it had offered to cover a May gas bill by Wednesday, while demanding that Russia "immediately" pay Belarus 217 million dollars in gas transit fees.
Belarus would then pay Russia 187 million dollars by July 5 to cover January-April supplies, the government said in a statement, asking Moscow to refrain from further energy cuts "until mutual obligations are fully implemented."
Gazprom has said Belarus so far owes it 192 million dollars in arrears.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's powerful deputy in charge of energy, Igor Sechin, said Monday Minsk would have to make a new payment -- bringing the total amount to 270 million dollars -- by Friday.
The discrepancy between what Belarus said it owes Russia and what Russia says Belarus owes Gazprom could not immediately be explained.
Gazprom warned that new cuts would be forthcoming if Belarus did not settle the debt but said European consumers had nothing to worry about.
"We have prepared an action plan if the Belarussian side moves to violate its transit obligations and encroaches upon the gas meant for European consumers," Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev told a news conference.
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