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Archive for Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Russia threatens natural gas shut-off

December 27, 2006

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— A 48-year-old tractor factory worker joined other residents in Belarus' capital who shopped for heaters and stocked up on warm clothes Tuesday as fears rose that Russia would cut off the country's natural gas supply.

Anna Kuprilko, whose sister lives in Ukraine, was among those looking to buy a heater.

The dispute bears some resemblance to last year's crisis between Russia and Ukraine, where supplies of Russian gas briefly were disrupted.

Russia says Belarus must pay more than twice as much for gas next year - and even more later - and turn over a half-share in its pipeline system if it wants to avoid a New Year's gas shut-off.

Moscow's dispute with Ukraine last year was seen as political pressure against a Western-leaning government; this time it is against a country whose longtime leader has close ties with Moscow.

Russia had supplied gas to ex-Soviet states at below-market prices for years after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but now wants to sell all its gas at world prices.

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