Russia has no intention of summoning its ambassador in Belarus for consultations in Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry reported on Thursday. Hence, Moscow is not going to reply in kind to Minsk's decision to recall its own senior diplomat. "The Belarussian authorities have every right to send for their ambassador for consultations," the Russian foreign ministry told RIA Novosti.
President Alexander Lukashenko's decision to summon Ambassador Vladimir Grigoryev to Minsk was reported on Thursday morning. "Now our relations with Russia will long remain poisoned by gas," said the Belarussian leader.
Lukashenko's decision was prompted by the fact that Russia's gas giant, Gazprom, first limited gas supplies to Belarus, and then on Wednesday stopped deliveries altogether. This was prompted by the fact that the volumes of gas envisaged by the contract between Belarus's joint stock company, Beltransgaz, and Gazprom ran out, and Minsk had signed no new contracts.
To resume full supplies, the Belarussian side was advised to sign new contracts as a matter of urgency. However, Beltransgaz instead began using without sanction Russian gas being delivered via Belarus to third countries - Poland, Lithuania, Germany, including for Ruhhrgas, and also for Dutch and British consumers.
At the same time, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has now agreed to Moscow's terms.
"I agree to conclude a contract on Putin's terms," he said at the session of the Belarussian government on Thursday morning. "Belarus, in turn, will review Russian-Belarussian relations," he added, however. "The gas conflict" broke out between Minsk and Moscow over the price for a cubic metre of gas. Beltransgaz insisted on last year's prices, i.e. $44-46 per 1,000 cubic metres. However, the Russian side is not going to sell its gas for less than $50 per 1,000 cubic metres.
At the same time, Gazprom made it clear that it was ready for a compromise given Belarus had sold 51% of shares in Beltransgaz in accordance with its book value (i.e. for $306 million). In this case, the republic would receive gas for a lower privileged price - 912 roubles per a thousand cubic metres ($1 equals 28.5 roubles).
Russian energy ministry experts said on Thursday that Russia had no intention of blackmailing its ally. The thing is that Gazprom is getting ready to seriously restructure its liabilities to foreign partners.
The Energy Ministry recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin met Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov in January to discuss the issuing of loans to its Belarussian partners if gas supplies were limited. Minsk did not appreciate this gesture at that time.
Meanwhile, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said on Thursday that the issue of gas supplies to Belarus had to be urgently addressed.
According to him, gas deliveries to Belarus are an economic issue. "The thing is that economic entities failed to reach an agreement on further gas supplies," Gryzlov told reporters.
"We understand that the ceased gas supplies are a real problem for Belarus. However, it is also a problem for Russia," said Gryzlov. He pointed out that the Kaliningrad region (Russia's enclave on the Baltic) had problems with gas deliveries, too. Either way, despite the cold winter, Belarussians will not freeze. Gas will continue to flow out of the temporarily blocked pipe for another two days, say Russian Energy Ministry experts.