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Despite Threats, Russian Gas Flows To Germany Increase Through Belarus

Despite threats by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last week that he could turn off the taps on the Yamal gas pipeline, German authorities report that flows have actually increased over the weekend, according to Reuters.

Lukashenko last week threatened to cut off the flow of gas along the Yamal pipeline in response to the EU threatening new sanctions against Belarus amid a migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border. Russia's President Vladimir Putin, however, was quick to respond to the threat.

Putin said Lukashenko had not consulted Moscow on the issue, and if he did, he risked a response from the Russian side.

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"I've recently spoken to (Lukashenko) twice, and he didn't mention this to me once. He didn't even hint," the Russian president said in a TV interview this weekend. "Of course, in theory, Lukashenko, as president of a transit country, could order our (gas) supplies to be cut to Europe. But this would mean a breach of our gas transit contract, and I hope this will not happen," Putin also said.

"We provide heat to Europe, and they are threatening us with the border closure. What if we block natural gas transit?" Lukashenko said on Thursday, as quoted by Belarusian state news agency Belta.

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The Belarusian statement has not been coordinated with Moscow in any way, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. Belarus is an ally of Russia, but it is also a sovereign state, Peskov also said.

"Russia remains a reliable energy supplier to Europe, regardless of the actions of Belarus," Peskov said, adding that "Russia's reliability as a supplier and partner in the current and future contracts cannot be called into question."

The threat briefly lifted gas prices on the spot market in Europe, but these fell back after the official information about flows along the Yamal pipeline was released.

The 2,000-km from Western Siberia to Germany has a capacity to transport close to 33 billion cu m of natural gas annually. It is one of the key gas arteries from Russia to Europe.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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