* Gazprom says ready to cut supplies by 85 pct as of Monday
* Says Belarus owes $192 mln for 2010 deliveries
* Belarus denies debts but says will sort problem
(Adds Belarus comments)
By Dmitry Sergeyev and Andrei Makhovsky
ST PETERSBURG, Russia/SHKLOV, Belarus, June 18 (Reuters) -
Russia said it will cut 85 percent of gas supplies to Belarus
from Monday if its ex-Soviet neighbour fails to pay $192 million
in debt to Gazprom (GAZP.MM), which Minsk denied it owes.
Europe pays close attention to Russia's gas price rows with
its neighbours after its supplies to Europe came to a halt for
almost two weeks in January 2009 while Moscow and Ukraine argued
over prices and transit terms.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave Belarus -- whose
relations with Moscow have soured in recent years over trade
issues, including gas and oil supply prices -- a five-day
ultimatum on Tuesday in a televised meeting with Gazprom Chief
Executive Alexei Miller [ID:nN17257061]
"From Monday morning at 10 am (0600 GMT) we are prepared to
cut supplies by 85 percent," a Gazprom spokesman said at the St
Petersburg Economic Forum on Friday.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that
he did not think his country had any debts outstanding for
Russian gas -- for which it has asked to pay last year's lower
prices -- but would settle any disagreement over the issue.
"If you come at it from Russia's perspective then it is a
debt. If you come at it from what I talked about, there is no
debt. I think we will work something out," Lukashenko told
Belarus is to pay $187 per 1,000 cubic metres on average
this year, compared with $148 in 2009.
Medvedev has shrugged off Lukashenko's request for a
reprieve, saying hard economic times could not be used as an
Gazprom claims Belarus has been paying $150 per 1,000 cubic
meters of gas instead of the $169.20 that Gazprom charged in the
first quarter and $184.80 in the second, and that total debt has
amounted to $192 million for the year.
Belarus pays the lowest gas price among Gazprom's customers,
but it has repeatedly said that it should pay less for both gas
and oil if it is to join a Russia-dominated customs union with
By comparison, Ukraine, another former Soviet satellite,
pays Gazprom around $234 per 1,000 cubic metres.
Lukashenko said Belarus is ready to join customs union with
Russia and Kazakhstan if Russia drops oil exports duties from
2011 and on oil products from July 1, 2010. [ID:nLDE60E1JI]
(Reporting by Dmitry Sergeyev; Writing in Moscow by Jessica
Bachman; Editing by Lidia Kelly, Jon Loades-Carter and Alison