Gas supply to Lithuania, Kaliningrad falls 40 pct: firm

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Gas supplies via Belarus to Lithuania and the Russian Baltic territory of Kaliningrad fell 40 percent Wednesday, amid a feud between Moscow and Minsk, the head of Lithuania's national gas firm said.

"The reduction in the level now is more than 40 percent," Viktoras Valentukevicius, chief executive of Lietuvos Dujos, told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Lithuania did not receive any notice from Belarus ahead of the reduction, he added.

At noon (0900 GMT) Wednesday, the supply had already fallen by 30 percent, the company said earlier.

Russia on Wednesday cut gas supplies to Belarus by 60 percent, as a payment feud between the ex-Soviet neighbours that has raised fears for European consumers went into a third day.

The dispute is a particular worry for Lithuania, since the Baltic state relies entirely on Russia for its gas, piped via Belarus. Lithuania is itself a transit route for gas to Kaliningrad.

Lithuanian Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas told reporters his country was preparing to import gas via neighbouring Latvia

"We are prepared, if needed, to get gas via Latvia. If there is a major reduction, it is possible we'll limit consumption," Sekmokas said.

"Consumption in summer is less, so I think we should not face any major problems," he noted.

The European Union closely watches gas disputes between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbours after a row between Moscow and Kiev led to supplies of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine being cut off for two weeks early last year.

That dispute remains firmly etched in the minds of European policymakers as it left several EU countries deprived of gas during a harsh winter.

Earlier Wednesday Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite -- a former member of the EU's executive body -- said energy feuds pitting gas giant Russia against neighbours in the region were a major worry for the 27-nation bloc.

"This repeated form of dealing with relations, especially in the field of energy, between Russia and other countries should raise concern for the whole of Europe," Grybauskaite told reporters.

"That is why we are saying that the security of supply of gas and other energy sources should be guaranteed, particularly for EU countries. This is a common matter," Grybauskaite said.

Former communist countries such as Lithuania which count on Russian gas have repeatedly pushed for the EU to develop a joint energy policy.

© 2010 AFP

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