Europe is becoming increasingly dragged into a dispute between Russia and Belarus which is ostensibly over unpaid energy bills.
In response to Moscow reducing the gas flow to Minsk until it settles alleged debts, Belarus yesterday set its own deadline for Moscow to pay apparent outstanding transit fees.
Belarussian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko warned: “After this briefing, I will sign a document addressed to Gazprom’s head, demanding the company pays 260 million US dollars to Beltransgaz by 10am tomorrow. If it is not done, we will be forced to stop providing services for all gas and oil transit through the territory of Belarus.”
The EU is losing patience. There has already been a reduction in the supply of gas arriving in Lithuania. If it is not Russia turning the tap, then Belarus must be diverting supplies.
EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said such a thing “was an attack against the whole European Union.”
Russia supplies Europe with 25 per cent of its gas needs. It delivers the gas via pipes through Ukraine and Belarus.
Analysts say this latest spat between Moscow and Minsk is politically motivated to get Belarus onside over a new trade pact.