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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gas Cutoffs: Will Belarus Be Next?

Russia has slashed natural gas supplies to the Baltic states and is also threatening to halt deliveries to Belarus, gas industry officials said Tuesday.

The officials linked the reductions or stoppages to failure of the countries to pay millions of dollars for past deliveries. Vyacheslav Sheremet, first deputy chairman of Gazprom, the state gas monopoly, told Itar-Tass that the Baltic states alone owe a total of 60 billion rubles ($57 million. )

Despite Gazprom's linkage of the actions to economic causes, the Estonia cutoff is seen as mainly political, linked to the country's policies toward ethnic Russian residents.

Estonia lost its gas supply on Friday, and Latvia followed on Saturday. Most of Lithuania's gas was cut off on Sunday.

According to an official at the Lithuanian Embassy in Moscow, Russia cannot entirely cut off Lithuania because the pipeline also supplies the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

Unlike the Estonian case, the issue of gas delivery to Lithuania is a purely economic one.

"This is not a political question", said an official at the Lithuanian Embassy who asked not to be named. "We owe them money, and we should pay". "Now we have to find the money".

Belarussian Prime Minister Vyecheslav Kebich, was due to begin talks Wednesday on a variety of issues, including his country's gas debts to Russia.

"Gas is a big problem, of course", said a Belarus Embassy spokesman, "but the problem of the oil debt is even worse".

The spokesman was unable to specify how much Belarus owes Russia for oil and gas deliveries.