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Russia reduced its gas supply to neighbouring Belarus on Monday, sparking fears of gas cuts to Europe. Belarus has promised to borrow money from the West and pay up in two weeks.
Russia cut gas supplies to Belarus by 15 percent on Monday, June 21. Moscow is pressing its neighbour to pay a 192 million U.S. dollar debt, once more raising fears of disruption in deliveries to Europe.
Relations between the two have soured since they failed to agree on unified customs rules. The situation has not been helped by Belarus providing refuge to the ousted Kyrgyz President Bakiyev.
Russia supplies a quarter of Europe's gas needs. Belarus, which borders European Union member Poland, is used as one of two key transit routes supplying oil and gas to the continent.
Previous pricing disputes with Belarus led to oil supply cuts, with Poland and Germany being affected the most.
A similar standoff with Kiev halted the much larger Russian gas supplies across Ukraine for almost two weeks in January 2009. Many Europeans were left without fuel during a cold snap.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told gas monopoly Gazprom to cut supplies from Monday, according to the Kremlin press office. Gazprom said it had started implementing the order and reduced supplies by 15 percent from 10 am.
Belarus' First Deputy Premier Vladimir Semashko said the debt could be repaid within two weeks.
[Vladimir Semashko, Belarus First Deputy Premier]: (Russian)
"We will have to borrow in the West further on to pay the debt. We will repay, maybe not today, but we will repay, I think within two weeks, we will find a possibility."
One-tenth of Europe's gas needs currently arrive via Belarus.