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Belarus fails to pay for gas

Yesterday was the deadline for Belarus to pay its $450-million gas bill for the H1 of the year. It did not do so, in spite of receiving $625 million from Gazprom in June as payment for 12.5% of Beltransgaz stock.

The first half of this year was a transition period for Belarus. It paid $55 per 1000 cu. m. for gas contracted at $100. Belarus will receive a total of 21.7 billion cu. m. of natural gas from Russia this year. Belarus asked for a payment extension to the end of the year without penalty. Moscow countered with the offer of a $450-500 million credit at 12.5% annual interest. Belarusian officials have stated that the money received from Gazprom for Beltransgaz will not be used to pay for natural gas, but will be placed in a special account in the national bank and used for development. Because of new rules on the export of Russian oil and petroleum products, the trade imbalance between the countries rose from $390 million last year to $2 billion in the H1 of this year.

Beltransgaz general director Dmitry Kazakov, who was in negotiations with Gazprom all last week, was dismissed yesterday and replaced by Vladimir Mayorov, former deputy governor of Gomel Region. Kazakov remains in negotiations with Gazprom in the capacity of chairman of the board of the company, however. A Gazprom spokesman said that negotiations went on into the night yesterday and that they were “constructive.” The spokesman said that the results of the negotiations would be made known in the immediate future. (