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    CEASED GAS SUPPLIES VIA BELARUS NOT UPSET GAZPROM'S EUROPEAN CUSTOMERS

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    MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. /RIA Novosti correspondent/ - Gazprom's decision to cease gas supplies via Belarus has not caused a negative reaction of its customers among European countries.

    Poland, Lithuania and Germany that receive Russian gas via a pipeline that goes across Belarus understood Gazprom's decision to stop gas transportation via Belarus due to the unsanctioned siphoning of gas by the gas pipeline operator Beltransgaz.

    "Russian gas is delivered to Germany mainly via Ukraine. Gas supplies to Poland as of 6 am Thursday is 237,000 cm daily via Ukraine," Gazprom's Igor Volobuyev explained to RIA Novosti.

    According to him, "supplies to Lithuania have also been settled. On February 19th, at 1:20 am Moscow time we started supplies of 200,000 cm per hour via Latvia by the Riga-Panevejis pipeline. Supplies to the Kaliningrad region, Russia's enclave in the Baltic, as of 6 am equaled 30,000 cm per hour".

    The company had not used the Riga-Panevijis pipeline before, because Lithuania received gas via Belarus. "Latvia understood the problem and made advanced, agreeing to use the pipeline," Volobuyev said.

    "Gazprom is doing the utmost to use all the reserves and compensate gas losses," the company's representative assured.

    Earlier about 20% of Gazprom's exports went via Belarus, he added.

    Gazprom had to stop gas supplies to Belarus and its transit via the republic on Wednesday because of the unsanctioned siphoning of gas by Beltransgaz.

    "At 10 am on Wednesday the company introduced restrictions on Russian gas supplies to consumers in Belarus. The restrictions were introduced after the request of independent supplier TransNafta as the contracted by Beltransgaz volumes had been exhausted. The Belarussian party did not sign new agreements," reads Gazprom's statement.

    "To resume the full volume of gas supplies, we recommended the Belarussian party to urgently sign new contracts. Instead, Beltransgaz started unsanctioned siphoning of Russian gas that is transported via the republic to third countries. In this situation, Gazprom was forced to completely cease supplies of Russian gas to Belarus and its transit via the republic's territory since 6 pm," the company reported.

    "Responsibility for violating OAO Gazprom's liabilities to foreign consumers of Russian gas rests fully with the Belarussian party," Gazprom emphasized.

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