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    VLADIMIR PUTIN, ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO DISCUSS GAS SUPPLIES

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    KIEV, January 24, 2004. /RIA Novosti/. The Russian and Belarussian Presidents had a telephone conversation on problems of gas supplies to Belarus by Russia's independent gas producers, Vladimir Putin's press secretary Aleksei Gromov said.

    Vladimir Putin asked his Belarussian counterpart to quickly submit the necessary document confirming the volumes of gas supplies to Belarus by independent Russian producers.

    "The state cannot make independent producers continue gas supplies without Belarus' relevant confirmation," Vladimir Putin stressed.

    "In case of unfavorable consequences the Russian side declines all responsibility for them," the Russian President said.

    On his part, the Belarussian President promised to submit the document in question.

    The problem aroused when independent gas producers announced their intention to cease gas supplies to Belarus since January 24.

    Gasprom does not supply gas to Belarus since January 1, 2004.

    According to Belarussian First Vice Premier Vladimir Semashko, a delegation of the Beltransgaz gas transport enterprise led by its head Pyotr Petukh went to Moscow on Friday.

    "The talks will be accomplished tomorrow (January 25) or the day after tomorrow and Belarus will get the gas its needs," the First Vice Premier said.

    On Thursday independent gas producers ITERA Holding and Trans Nafta claimed that Beltransgaz had already taken out all gas contracted for January. Therefore, independent producers would cease gas supplies to Belarus since January 24.

    Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov believes that Russia and Belarus will settle mutual gas claims in the near future. "This is normal cooperation and we are trying to draw our positions together for our mutual interests. I think we would satisfy mutual claims soon," Yusufov told journalists.

    Russian independent gas producers will be ready to immediately resume gas supplies to Belarus after it gives a documentary confirmation of the needed gas volumes, sources in ITERA Holding said.

    As a matter of fact, it means readiness to pay for the gas at its market price, the sources added.

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