Russia begins to cut off gas to Belarus
Russia has begun to cut off gas supplies to its neighbour Belarus. On Monday it cut gas supplies by 15% amid claims Belarus owes ₤135m (US$200m) in unpaid bills. On Tuesday it cut the gas supply by another 15%. This follows Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s order on Monday to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom to cut supplies from Monday.
Russia has said the cuts will rise day by day to 85% if Belarus does not start paying off its debts, accrued when it failed to pay increased prices. This has raised fears in European countries in that deliveries to Europe might again be disrupted. Relations between Russia and Belarus have soured since they failed to agree on unified customs rules and Belarus gave refuge to ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Russia supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas needs. It uses Belarus, which borders European Union member Poland, as one of the key transit routes for oil and gas to the continent. Previous pricing disputes with Minsk led to oil supply cuts, with Poland, Lithuania and Germany being affected most. A similar standoff with Kiev halted Russian gas supplies across Ukraine for two weeks in January 2009. This left many Europeans without heating and fuel during a harsh winter.
Category: Energy / Belarus, Russia / Gas