Russia’s Gazprom on Monday declined to comment on a newspaper report that suggests that the gas giant may tell Belarus to pay off its debt quickly.
In its June 15 edition, the Kommersant newspaper referred to a statement by Andrei Kuznetsov, economic counselor at the Russian embassy in Minsk, who said in late May that Belarus had paid for gas deliveries at $150 per 1000 cubic meters in the first quarter of this year, while the actual price had been $210 per 1000 cubic meters.
The country’s apparent gas debt may be used by Moscow as a "tool of additional pressure on Minsk," the Kommersant said. Referring to an unnamed source in the Gazprom gas giant, the paper noted that Belarus had not paid for gas deliveries in full earlier this year.
"In the first quarter of 2009, Minsk "did not notice" a rise in the price of gas from $128 to $210 per 1000 cubic meters and paid for gas imports at the previous price, accumulating a debt of some $70 million to Russia in the winter. During talks between the two presidents in Zavidovo in late March a solution appeared to have been found. Moscow allowed Minsk to pay for Russian gas at a mean yearly price of some $150 for 1000 cubic meters, with the deadline for final settlement postponed to the end of the year," the newspaper said.
However, the newspaper said that the verbal agreement had never been put down on paper and noted with reference to Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov that "no additional changes have been introduced to the contract with Belarus this year."