Russian gas giant Gazprom owes Belarus an equal amount of nearly $200 million for gas transit, therefore leaving Minsk with no debts before Moscow, a Belarusian first deputy energy minister said on Friday.
"As of today, according to our accounts, Gazprom owes a little over $200 million for transit [to Western Europe]," Eduard Tovpinets said on Belarusian Channel 1 television.
He said the energy minister received on Friday a telegram from Gazprom stating that in the case of nonpayment for arrears of some $200 million by Beltransgaz, Gazprom would reduce the delivery of gas to Belarus by 85% for June.
Gazprom has given Beltransgaz until Monday to pay the outstanding debt.
In reaction to Tovpinets' remarks, a Gazprom spokesman, Sergei Kupriyanov, told RIA Novosti that representatives from Belarus would arrive in St. Petersburg on Saturday "to hold immediate talks with Gazprom in regard to accumulated issues."
Kupriyanov said earlier on Friday that Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller would meet with Belarusian Energy Minister Alexander Ozerts on Saturday.
Belarus is a transit country for part of Russian gas exports to Europe. On Tuesday, President Dmitry Medvedev threatened tough measures against Minsk if it does not pay off its approximate $200 million gas debt in five days.
Gazprom also warned Belarus on Wednesday that it may cut gas supplies starting June 21.
Belarus refuses to pay the Russian gas price, which is set at $169 per 1,000 cubic meters in the first quarter of the year and $185 in the second quarter. Instead, it has been paying $150 since January 1. A Russian official earlier said Minsk had "plucked this price out of thin air."
MINSK, June 18 (RIA Novosti )