Belarus, which may be cut from Russian gas supplies this Monday, does not leave hopes to agree with the Russian side over a gas debt issue until the last moment.
On Sunday, Minsk threatened Moscow that it would be unable to ensure full Russian natural gas transit to Europe if Russia cuts gas supplies to the ex-Soviet republic by 85% over a debt row.
Belarus refuses to pay the Russian gas price, set at $169 per 1,000 cubic meters for the first quarter of the year and $185 for the second quarter, and has been paying $150 since Jan. 1 instead.
Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has warned Belarus' pipeline firm Beltransgaz that it may cut gas supplies from June 21 over the country's debts, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Wednesday.
A representative of the Belarusian Energy Ministry said earlier on Sunday that a Belarusian delegation was leaving for Moscow to discuss Gazprom's debt for gas transit to Europe via Belarus in a recent energy row between the two ex-Soviet republics.
The talks, which will be held on Monday, "will focus on the cost of gas transit across Belarus and, correspondingly, Gazprom's debt for transit," the representative said.
At the talks between Gazprom and Belarus' gas company Beltransgaz on Saturday, the parties failed to agree on debt setoffs, the representative said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier Russia was giving Belarus five days to pay off its $200 million gas debt, or tough measures would be taken.
Belarus has refused to acknowledge the debt. Instead, Belarusian First Deputy Energy Minister Eduard Tovpinets on Friday evening announced that Gazprom owed some $200 million to Belarus for gas transit fees to Europe, the same amount that Gazprom said Belarus owed for gas deliveries.
The CEO of Russia's gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said on Saturday the company is looking into the perspectives of bypassing Belarus in gas deliveries to Europe, adding that it is technically possible.
"In regard to that question, we need to look into this calmly, technical possibilities exist," Miller said.
Meanwhile, a high-placed official of the Belarusian Energy Ministry told RIA Novosti on Sunday that Russia had the right to cut gas supplies only by 15% under the existing contract and not by 85% as was announced by Russia's Gazprom.
"Under the contract, a failure to pay for gas entails a cut in supplies proportionate to the unpaid debt," the official said, adding that $200 million represented about 15% of the amount of natural gas supplied to Belarus by Russia since the start of the year.
"The other part has been paid for," the official said.
Energy prices have been an irritant in relations between the ex-Soviet republics, which have pledged to establish a "union state."
MOSCOW, June 20 (RIA Novosti)