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    INDEPENDENT GAS SUPPLIERS TO STOP THEIR DELIVERIES TO BELARUS ON JANUARY 24

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    MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Independent gas suppliers Itera Holding and TransNafta informed Gazprom on January 22 that the gas amount ordered by Beltransgaz for January has been delivered in full and the company had been pumping unauthorized amounts since January 16. In view of this, independent gas suppliers will stop their deliveries to Belarus at midnight on January 24.

    Gazprom stopped its deliveries to Belarus on January 1, Itera Holding and TransNafta have fulfilled their obligations for January, and no new contracts have been signed with Belarus.

    On January 1-21, 2004 Belarussian consumers received 1,366 million cubic meters of Russian gas though the contractual amount to be provided by independent suppliers was 1.05 billion cu m.

    Gazprom has recommended Belarus to sign without delay contracts with independent suppliers and forward them to Gazprom, to ensure the resumption of gas supplies to Belarussian consumers.

    "Why should Russia be the milk cow for its partners, even if very good ones? Gazprom has been subsidizing the Belarussian economy and budget for several years, delivering gas without getting profits or anything else in return," says Gazprom deputy board chairman Alexander Ryazanov. "Belarus is openly sabotaging the signing of the gas contract for 2004 on market conditions, though we know that the Russian government was ready to offer it a loan to make up for the difference between the market price and prices charged in the fifth zone of Russia. We should start working on common, market conditions generally used in the civilized world."

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