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Gazprom Dismisses Lukashenko Threat, Says ‘Gas War’ Has Ended

OAO Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, said a “gas war” with Belarus has ended after mutual debts were paid, dismissing a threat from Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko to halt oil and gas shipments to Europe.

Gazprom has paid for past transit fees in full under its existing contract, Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller told reporters in Moscow today. Belarus and Gazprom are having a “constructive dialog,” he said, and are likely to sign addenda that will allow Belarus to claim higher fees in the near future.

“No one argues with the referee,” Miller said, comparing the contract between Gazprom and Belarus to a soccer referee. “The referee can show a yellow or red card. The referee is the czar and God. But in our concrete case, friendship has won.”

The dispute over the debts lowered gas shipments to Lithuania, a European Union member, as Gazprom cut deliveries for Belarus 60 percent by yesterday and accused the neighboring country of siphoning off 20 percent of EU exports. Gazprom supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas, sending about 20 percent via Belarus and the rest across Ukraine.

Lukashenko today threatened to halt oil and gas transit if Gazprom doesn’t pay the remainder of the $260 million his country claimed for transit fees in one day. Gazprom paid Belarus $228 million.

Gazprom will pay Belarus the remaining $32 million only after the addenda are signed, spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said by phone today. The company accepted a $187 million payment for past supplies to Belarus based on higher transit fees, rather than the $192 million it demanded under the base supply and transit contract.

‘Be More Cautious’

Gazprom cut as much as 60 percent of deliveries to the country this week.

‘It’s great the conflict is resolved,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said today in a video conference with Miller from Toronto. “It’s good that the Belarusian side paid though it should have been done earlier without creating problems and without increasing their debts. I hope they will be more cautious and they will fulfill their obligations.”

Russia’s oil-pipeline operator OAO Transneft hasn’t received any notification from Belarus that transit shipments may be halted, the state-run RIA Novosti new service said.

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