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Belarus clears gas debt to Russia

Belarus has paid off its debt for gas to Russian gas giant Gazprom, Russian news agencies reported Wednesday.

Belarussian gas pipeline company Beltransgaz paid Gazprom $56.5 million Wednesday as the last installment of its $456.16 million debt for gas supplies in the H1 of 2007, a source in the Belarussian Energy Ministry was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. “Beltransgaz paid Gazprom $56.5 million this morning and has thus completely paid off its debt for gas supplies to Belarus in the first half of the year,” the source said.  Gazprom confirmed that Beltransgaz has paid its debt in full for gas supplies in the H1 of 2007. “Gazprom hopes that the situation with the Belarus’ gas debt will not recur,” the Russian company’s press secretary Sergei Kupriyanov was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

Earlier, Belarussian officials said the country had paid in full its gas debt to Gazprom and pledged to pay 100% for Russian gas exports as of August. “Today the republic’s finance ministry made the last payment for gas and Gazprom should receive the money,” Andrei Zhukov, an aide of the Belarussian energy minister, was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying. “We had to transfer the payments before August 10 and we did this,” he said. The transaction was made in compliance with a schedule between Beltransgaz and Gazprom. “After Belarus paid off its debt, it will ensure 100% payment for gas supplies from Gazprom as of August,” Belarussian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said.

Last Wednesday, Gazprom said it would cut gas supplies to Belarus by 45% as of August 3 due to the debt and lack of payment guarantees. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko then pledged that the debt would be paid over the coming days, saying the country’s gold and currency reserves, a state credit from Venezuela and a credit from Western banks would be used to pay the debt. Last Friday, Gazprom delayed a reduction in supplies to Belarus by one week after it confirmed that Belarus had paid a $190-million installment toward its debt. (