Russia 'to restart' full gas supplies after Belarus row

A gas worker at the Yamal-Europe pipeline near the town of Nesvizh, Belarus (file) Belarus claimed Russia owed it extra money for transit fees

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Russia's Gazprom says it is resuming gas supplies to Belarus after receiving payment for outstanding gas bills.

Belarus said that it in turn had received payment from Gazprom, which uses pipelines across Belarus to pump gas to third countries.

Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said gas supplies would be resumed in full at 1000 local time (0600 GMT).

Russia had reduced its gas supplies to Belarus by 60%, which had a knock-on effect on supplies to Lithuania.

Russia started cutting supplies on Monday, after saying Belarus had failed to pay $192m for gas - though Belarus calculated the fees at $187m, the amount that Belarus said it had transferred on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had claimed that Belarus was owed $260m (£176m) by Russia in fees for using transit pipelines.

Mr Kupriyanov said on Thursday that Gazprom had paid Belarus $228m for the transit fees.

'Lowest possible price'

It was not immediately clear whether both sides were entirely satisfied with the payments, though Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin implied that the dispute was ending.

"We regret that a conflict erupted," he said.

"We hope it won't be repeated... We need to hold talks with our partners and solve all disputed issues in a normal, working, amicable atmosphere."

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A spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, Andrei Savinykh, expressed regret that the dispute had "reached such a scale".

"We hope that the two countries' economic entities will be able to find a solution to all issues," he said.

Russia increased the price of gas supplied to Belarus from $150 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas last year, to $169.20 in the first quarter of 2010 and $184.80 in the second.

But Belarus had continued to pay at $150.

Mr Putin said on Thursday that Belarus was still getting its gas cheaply.

"I would like to point out that the Belarusian partners are receiving Russian natural gas at the lowest possible price. No consumers of Russian gas enjoy prices lower than that."

Russia supplies about a quarter of the gas consumed in the EU, and 42% of the EU's gas imports.

Russia has cut gas supplies to both Ukraine and Belarus several times in recent years.

About 80% of Russian gas bound for European countries goes via Ukraine, but Lithuania, Germany and Poland rely on supplies through Belarus.

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