Gazprom Resumes Natural Gas Supplies to Belarus After Mutual Debt Payments
OAO Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer, resumed fuel supplies to Belarus in full today after both sides settled bills, paying less than charged and saying questions remain about pricing.
“We see no reasons at present for there to be problems with transit or supplies to residents in Belarus,” Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for the Russian gas export monopoly, told reporters today in Moscow. “Questions remain about what the exact transit fee should be. We expect to resolve them.”
Gazprom paid $228 million for past transit fees in line with a base contract rate, rather than the $260 million Belarus was demanding, Kupriyanov said. No agreement on raising the price has been signed yet, he said. The company received $187 million from Belarus for past fuel deliveries, which Gazprom had assessed at $192 million, he said.
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.
Lithuania’s gas supplies were fully restored from across Belarus today, Sigita Petrikonyte-Jurkuniene, a spokeswoman for Lietuvos Dujos AB, said in an e-mailed statement. Gazprom said in a statement today that the amount of gas registered at Belarus’s western border is in line with contract terms.
Belarus First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko had threatened to cut transit to the EU if Beltransgaz, the Belarusian pipeline operator, didn’t receive the transit fee payment, Interfax said today. Vladimir Chekov, a spokesman for Beltransgaz, which is half-owned by Gazprom, didn’t answer his office or mobile phones when called by Bloomberg News during the past three days.
Gazprom paid for transit fees at the base price of $1.45 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas crossing 100 kilometers in a 2006 contract, as accords raising the price were never signed, Kupriyanov said. Belarus sought to boost transit prices to $1.74 last year and $1.88 this year, and used higher rates to calculate Belarus’s supply debt, he said.
Gazprom has sent documents to Belarus to sign that will increase the transit fee as well as the wholesale mark-up that Beltransgaz can charge domestically, Kupriyanov said.
Belarus’s payment of $187 million is acceptable as long as the country signs the documents, he said. The debt arose this year as the country continued to pay last year’s $150 per 1,000 cubic meters, demanding Russia’s domestic price. Gazprom charged about $184 in the second quarter, according to the contract, Kupriyanov said this week.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized Belarus for failing to pay on time or in line with its contract and said the former Soviet republic receives gas at the lowest price in the region, at a meeting with Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller broadcast today on state television.
Putin called for more talks about Belarus’s demand for higher transit fees. Belarus will consider the $228 million that Gazprom transferred as an 87 percent advance payment, RIA Novosti said, citing Semashko.