Belarussian President calls cut in Russian gas supplies Kremlin's political decision

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko described on Wednesday a 50 per cent reduction in Russian gas supplies to Belarus as "the Kremlin's political decision and unprecedented pressure on Belarus". Lukashenko was speaking at a meeting with cabinet members on energy resources for the country.

According to him, the Russian side is demanding that the state-owned Belarussian concern Beltransgaz be passed into Gazprom ownership. He considers unsubstantiated Gazprom's claims to Belarus for a 190 million US dollar outstanding debt for supplied gas.

In the past, he noted, Belarus granted Gazprom a rebate of 175 million dollars when it constructed the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. "In practical terms these sums are equal, and so Belarus owes nobody anything," Lukashenko said.

Still he requested that the government pay Russia the existing debt. He strictly forbade the cabinet to discuss with Russia any siphoning off of the gas.

At the same time, Lukashenko suggested that alternative gas sources be found for Belarus. "We cannot depend on one supplier," he said.

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