Russia Cuts Gas Supplies over Debt
June 21, 2010
Russia started cutting most natural gas supplies to ex-Soviet neighbor Belarus over what it claims is a debt of nearly $200 million, threatening to rekindle political disputes in the region over energy policy, reports the Associated Press. President Dmitry Medvedev met with Alexei Miller, the chief of state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom, and in televised remarks ordered him to implement cuts "to protect the interests of the Russian state." Miller said the company would gradually cut gas supplies to Belarus by 85 percent, the remainder serving to maintain its pipeline that is also used for transit of Russian gas supplies to other parts of Europe. Russia last week warned Belarus to start paying off the debt or face cuts. Belarus has challenged the Russian claim and refused to pay. Miller said that European customers won''t be affected by the Belarusian shut-off as Gazprom can channel gas supplies normally going via Belarus to another transit pipeline crossing Ukraine. EU member Lithuania, which gets all of its gas imports, could feel the biggest impact of Russia’s cutoff of natural gas to Belarus.