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Russia Resumes Gas Flow To Belarus

Minsk, 19 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Gazprom gas company today resumed natural gas deliveries to Belarus, ending an almost 24-hour suspension.

Gazprom -- which owns the export pipelines -- resumed transportation of gas to Belarus after Russian producer TransNafta signed a temporary supply contract with Belarus.

Under the contract, TransNafta will supply Belarus with natural gas till the end of the month for the most recent price of $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Gazprom halted all natural gas deliveries to Belarus yesterday, including gas transit to Poland and Germany. Yesterday, TransNafta joined Gazprom and ITERA in suspending gas supplies to Belarus. The Russian gas companies said all existing contracts had expired and want to raise their rates from below-market rates.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka today accused Russia of "terrorism" but said Belarus -- which is almost totally dependent on Russian gas for its energy needs -- had to agree to Russian terms.

"Let them [critics] reproach us for not standing stronger, for giving up and so on. We should conclude an agreement on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's terms. If Putin wants us to pay this money, let us try to collect it."

Lukashenka also said he wants to increase Belarus's gas-transit fee of $0.50 per 1,000 cubic meters to the price that Ukraine gets, which is $1.09 per 1,000 cubic meters.