Gazprom warned Belarusian pipeline operator Beltransgaz on Wednesday it would reduce gas deliveries in proportion to the Belarusian debt starting next Monday, Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly said.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said letters had been sent to Beltransgaz General Director Vladimir Mayorov and Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko saying Beltransgaz should pay off the outstanding debt before June 21 or face supply cuts.
He added that Belarus was free to initiate price negotiations "in the framework of the established intergovernmental institutions" but that "the current contract must be implemented in full."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday Belarus was given five days to pay off its $200 million gas debt, warning tough measures would have to be taken otherwise.
He directed Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller to contact the Belarusian authorities and urge them to pay off the debt as soon as possible.
Belarus refuses to pay the Russian gas price, set at $169 per 1,000 cubic meters in the first quarter of the year and $185 in the second quarter, and has been paying $150 since January 1 instead. A Russian official said it "plucked this price out of thin air."
The Belarusian debt could reach $500-600 million by year-end if the situation is not resolved.
Lukashenko said in late May his country was ready to hand over Beltransgaz and the Mozyr oil refinery in exchange for domestic Russian prices for oil and gas.
Moscow and Minsk faced off at the start of the year over tariffs on imports of Russian oil, which Belarus said should be completely duty-free in the mooted Customs Union, which also includes Kazakhstan.
MOSCOW, June 16 (RIA Novosti)