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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Minsk Tries Diplomacy In Gas Row

The Belarussian government moved to defuse a spat with Moscow on Tuesday, vowing to repay $200 million of accumulated debt for gas supplied by Russia this year.

The ballooning bill prompted natural gas monopoly Gazprom to slash gas exports to Belarus by 50 percent on Sunday.

Gazprom earlier said it was nearing the completion of all of its obligations to pump gas to Belarus in 2002.

The gas is sold at Russia's domestic price of $24 per thousand cubic meters, a fraction of the price paid by European consumers, who receive Gazprom's gas through the same pipeline.

Minsk tried to spin the supply disruption as an example of Russia exerting pressure on its neighbor. Russia disputes the claim.

"This is a dispute between two economic partners, which independently make decisions on supplies and payments," Interfax quoted Russia's ambassador to Belarus, Alexander Blokhin, as saying Tuesday.

Blokhin said the dispute was nothing but the result of Belarus having already taken its entire annual quota of 10.2 billion cubic meters.

He added that Russia has offered to supply extra gas from independent producers at the higher rate of about $35 per tcm

Blokhin named Itera, Russia's biggest independent gas producer, as a possible supplier.

The Belarussian Cabinet held an urgent meeting Monday evening and its energy minister was dispatched to Moscow for negotiations the very same day.

A Cabinet spokesman said the Belarussian government will work to ensure that payments for the remaining gas are timely, as well as find resources to repay the debt, Prime-Tass reported.

Gazprom said it has already oversupplied 1.5 bcm of natural gas to Belarus in January-September this year, while Belarussian authorities claim that the initial agreement was for a total 16.5 bcm of gas to be supplied in 2002.