Belarus has signed a deal on prices with the russian giant Gazprom. The agreement came after last-minute negotiations to beat a midnight deadline. Gazprom has confirmed that exports of gas to the West, which had been under threat, will henceforth be guaranteed. Gazprom claims it is trying to end subsidies to former soviet satellites and bring in market prices. But some say it is political muscle-flexing on Moscow’s behalf, aimed at curbing the actions of increasingly pro-western states.
Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky hinted that the deal was signed reluctantly: “Just now, on the eve of the New Year, we agreed to sign a deal but on very unfavourable terms for us. We’re jumping from 46 dollers per 1000 metres cubed to 100 dollars, so its more than double the price.”
Russian gas monopoly Gazprom had said it would cut supplies from midnight if an agreement had not been reached. Minsk retaliated by saying it would halt russian gas crossing the country in transit on its way to Europe. The dispute echoed a similar row this time last year, which saw supplies disrupted between Russia, Ukraine and western Europe.