Belarus’s gas price dispute with Russia is set to go to the wire with neither side showing any sign of budging from its entrenched position Gazprom is threatening to turn the supply lines off on January 1st if its ex-Soviet neighbour doesn’t agree to pay more than double the current price. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has said he will never surrender to blackmail.
Energy specialist Tatiana Mitrova says Gazprom is committed to raising consumer prices in Russia to European levels by 2011 and so it’s not likely to offer any more concessions to Belarus. Belarus is paying one of the lowest tariffs in the former Soviet Union, and despite Lukashenko’s bravado market analyst Konstantin Batunin, believes he’ll finish by buckling. “Belarus is just simply bound to come to some certain kind of agreement with Gazprom and the reason is that Belarus just simply doesn’t have any other means and source of natural gas other than Russian gas.”
Meanwhile in the capital Minsk they’re used to the cold and stoic residents say they’re ready for the worst: “We will have to tighten our belts, I guess, as they used to say in the old times. We have survived much worse conditions and we will survive this time. And maybe they will raise our pensions afterwards” Belarus has threatened to block Gazprom pipelines to Western Europe if the dispute is not settled – but Ukraine has promised to transit the shortfall in capacity if necessary.