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Interview with Konstantin Sonin

Konstantin Sonin, professor of the New Economic School in Moscow, shared with Russia Today his views on the dispute between Russia and Belarus over payments for Russian gas supply.

Russia Today: As we have heard the latest is that Belarus says that it will now pay its debt. Why didn't it meet its obligations earlier on?

Konstantin Sonin: Certainly Russia sent a very strong signal by actually threatening to cut supplies and the fact that other European governments were warned yesterday that these supplies will be cut and they will be probably affected, that sent a very strong signal to Belarusian authorities. I think they are reacting to this signal.

RT: And what sort of signal do you think it's going to send to Europe if Gazprom does go ahead and cut supplies? Of course this is going to be a concern naturally.

K.S.: This is about a signal for Europe, of course, but it is also a very strong signal to Belarus that Russia could be at this cost having some problems in relationship with Europe, but they still want to settle this issue with Belarus.

RT: But Belarus, of course, is in the middle. Aleksandr Lukashenko and the Russian government have had close ties for many years now. How do you think this is going to affect things diplomatically?

K.S.: Of course if you feed somebody for many years and then you ask to pay for some of the things that you provide than relationships are a kind of strained. I am not sure that our influence in Belarus would suffer. I think that Lukashenko would suffer very much out of this. He will not get this gas for free.

RT: And do you think that this is likely to be solved quickly or is expected to drag out for months?

K.S.: This is that kind of negotiations which will go forever so in the foreseeable future we will see Belarus wanting to pay less and Russia demanding to have more and more access to Belarusian enterprises. So I think we will see this for some time in the foreseeable future.