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    RUSSIA, BELARUS CLASH OVER GAS SUPPLIES. RUSSIA STOPS EXPORTS

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 18 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Gazprom Co., Russia's natural gas monopoly, was forced into stopping gas exports to Belarus and its transits via that country after Beltransgaz, Belarussian government gas-piping company, was caught red-handed in unauthorized use of Russian gas.

    "Russian gas supplies to Belarussian-based clients were drastically limited, starting 10.00, Moscow time, today. The limitations were caused by an application of the Trans Nafta, [Russian-based] independent corporate exporter, after Belarus used up gas imports as quota'ed on an available Beltransgaz contract. Belarus has failed to sign new contracts," Gazprom says in a statement.

    "To resume full-scale exports, it was recommended to Belarus to urgently sign such new contracts. Instead, the Beltransgaz started unsanctioned use of Russian gas piped to third countries via that country.

    "The situation forced Gazprom to fully stop Russian gas exports to Belarus and gas transits via Belarus, 18.00, Moscow time.

    "Responsibilities for Gazprom Co. violating its contract obligations to overseas clients rest fully with Belarus," points out the corporate statement.

    Beltransgas and Trans Nafta signed their latest contract for gas exports to Belarus, February 12, to a total 360 million cubic meters.

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