Gazprom pays Belarus $228 million transit debt

Gazprom says it has paid $228 million it says is owed to Beltranzgas, and resumed gas deliveries to Belarus. But Belarus says it is owed more.

Belarus First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said on Thursday that the country would cut Russian gas deliveries to Europe via its territory if Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom pays less than $260 million in transit fees. He added that Belarus considered the $228 million that Gazprom paid as an advance payment and gave Moscow two hours to officially notify the Belarusian authorities of the payment.

Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov says that the difference between the sum being asked for and the sum paid by the Russian monopoly gas exporter, reflects higher transit prices being charged by Beltranzgas, the Belarus state gas company, since last year, which aren’t reflected in existing contracts.

“There are still some open questions between Gazprom and Beltranzgas. The problem has its roots last year when it became clear that our partners charging us more than agreed. We've now paid for transit in accordance with existing contracts. In the event we reach a new agreement and sign additional contracts specifying a higher transit fee – we will be ready to pay a higher tariff.”

Gazprom has also added that it has sent to Belarus documentation to enable the higher prices to be charged.  Kupriyanov explained that the contract stipulates that the base transit rate is $1.45 for a thousand cubic meters per 100 kilometers. Upon creation of a joint enterprise on the basis of Beltranzgas it was specified that the rate can be increased to $1.74 in 2009 and $1.88 in 2010. However this issue is connected to the increase of wholesale extra charge for the gas, sold by Beltranzgas on the domestic market by $10.47 for a thousand cubic meters in 2009 and $11.08 in 2010. But this increase was not carried out.