Gazprom, the Russian energy monopoly, threatened on Tuesday to halt natural gas supplies to Belarus if that country did not agree to a large price increase by New Year's Day.
The strong Russian position suggests that Moscow is becoming aggressive in energy pricing even with countries that have been close allies.
Belarus now has the cheapest gas in the former Soviet Union, other than Russia. Gazprom, the world's largest energy company by volume of reserves, is insisting that Belarus pay more than double its current price, though it would still pay less than richer countries in Europe.
Gazprom warned that Belarus was behaving "irresponsibly" in the talks over pricing and a Russian demand to surrender equity in an important export pipeline, and said that such resistance was putting Belarus' energy supply at risk.
The threat was issued almost a year after Gazprom cut off fuel supplies to Ukraine, another important transit country for Russian energy exports, causing intense concern over supply in Western Europe. After three days and a din of criticism, Gazprom turned the gas back on.
In the energy markets now, the Kremlin is dictating terms with greater assertiveness than it has since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gazprom already owns one of the two major export pipelines that run through Belarus and is negotiating for a share in the second, a move that would tighten the company's bearhug on European supplies.
Gazprom said exports to Poland and Germany through the pipelines would not be at risk, even if Belarus were switched off. The company spokesman, Sergei Kupriyanov, said Gazprom had been stockpiling gas in underground reservoirs in Western Europe to ensure uninterrupted supplies.
"Responsibility for what has taken shape today lies with the Belarusian side," Aleksei Miller, Gazprom's chief executive, said on Tuesday to a Belarusian delegation led by Vladimir Semashko, the deputy prime minister.
"Gazprom and the Russian Federation met you halfway on all issues," Miller said.
Gazprom's tough negotiating suggested an unraveling of the special relationship between Russia and Belarus, which form a loose coalition called a "union state."
"The demand shows Putin is abandoning any myth of the union state," said Lilia Shevtsova, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Gazprom's final asking price for gas in Belarus is still among the lowest offered to Russia's neighbors. Gazprom says it is intent on raising prices throughout the former Soviet Union, ending a decade of subsidies.
Semashko left talks in Moscow on Tuesday without a deal.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around