Russia vows to cut Belarus power
Russia on Thursday threatened to imminently cut power supplies to Belarus after its neighbour failed to make a late debt payment because of its economic crisis.
Russia's Inter RAO UES utility holding said the cutoff will go into effect on Tuesday at 2000 GMT.
"We did not get the full payment amount and will have to fully stop electricity supplies at 00:00 hours Wednesday" Moscow time, company spokesman Anton Nazarov told AFP by telephone.
Belarus' power supplier "Belenergo does not have enough Russian rubles. They send us what they have. But what they are encountering is a more systemic problem."
Russia threatened to cut off supplies to Belarus last week before extending the deadline to help its traditional ally come up with the payment.
The new deadline expired on Tuesday morning and Nazarov said Russia was continuing to hold talks with Belarus.
Deliveries will be restored "as soon as the payment is made," the Russian company spokesman said. "Our contacts with them are very constructive."
But he added that remained highly likely that power would still be cut as threatened because it was technically difficult to reverse the decision once made.
"We cannot turn it on right away," he said.
The Vedomosti newspaper said the dispute revolved around a 600 million ruble ($21.2 million) payment for electricity supplies to Belarus in April.
Belarus says it has enough local currency to make the payment but lacks enough Russian rubles in its state accounts to make the required conversion.
The former Soviet republic receives only about a tenth of its electricity from Russia but was hit by a politically damaging partial deliveries shutdown this month that underscored the severity of its current economic downturn.
Russia has been using a carrot and stick approach to urge the republic's strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko to engage in both political and economic reforms that could bring Belarus out of its economic isolation.
Moscow earlier this month signed off on a $3 billion three-year loan to Belarus that included involvement from other former Soviet republics.
But last week's cutoff threat was made on the same day the first tranche of that payment was made.
© 2011 AFP