Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belgian Utilities Firm Blames Kazakhstan for Gas Shortages

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A Belgian utilities company has blamed the Kazakh government for gas shortages in the ex-Soviet republic this winter, saying it interfered in the firm's efforts to supply gas.

Ludo Candries, vice president of Tractebel CIS-Central Asia, said Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev, former oil and gas minister, had directly contributed to the problem.

Tractebel has a 15-year concession to operate Kazakhstan's gas supply system through an affiliate, Intergas Central Asia.

Candries made his comments here Monday, refuting an article in the daily Kazakhstanskaya Pravda over the weekend that blamed Tractebel for gas shortages in southern parts of country, including Almaty.

Candries said Balgimbayev halted the transfer to Intergas of the Poltoratskoye storage station, a key facility in supplying gas to southern Kazakhstan. The vice president also accused Kazakh officials of harassment, including the illegal seizure of assets by the tax inspectorate and police threats of violence.

He added that local authorities have threatened to close the firm's Almaty offices. "This is clearly an unacceptable and untenable situation," Candries said.

A spokesperson for Balgimbayev would not comment on Tractebel's claims, saying the prime minister was deciding whether to prepare a formal response.

Tractebel has not ruled out taking legal action against the government, but Candries said the company wanted an "amicable solution" and called for an independent committee to mediate.

"The Tractebel Group's only wish is to be left free of harassment and carry out its business," Candries said.

Candries said Tractebel had committed itself to investing more than $1 billion in the country -- some $650 million in the ex-Soviet state's 9,000-kilometer gas pipeline network and another $350 million in the power grid of the southeastern Almaty region.