The president of Belarus has reportedly ordered all Russian gas deliveries destined for Europe to be switched off, in an apparent deepening of a debt dispute with Moscow.
The Kremlin turned up the heat a notch earlier by reducing deliveries by 30 percent. It says Minsk owes it an unpaid bill of 150 million euros.
Yesterday, Russian state controlled gas monopoly Gazprom began its gradual cut in supplies, even though Belarus had offered to pay the debt in ‘machinery, equipment and other products.
But, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev insisted Gazprom could only accept foreign currency and what he described as repayments in pies, cheese and butter.
Russia supplies about a quarter of Europe’s gas needs using Belarus as a key transit route.
While not confirmed, the latest twist comes despite a promise by Belarus’ Deputy Premier to pay the gas bill in the next two weeks.
There are now fears deliveries to Europe could by severely affected, particularly in Lithuania, Poland and Germany which receive a substantial amount of Russia gas via Belarus.