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Russia, Belarus Gas Dispute Closer to Resolution

A dispute between Russia and Belarus over payments for gas supplies moved closer to resolution Thursday, but differences remain over how much Moscow owes Minsk in unpaid gas transit fees.

Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom announced Thursday that it was resuming normal shipments to Belarus after Minsk paid off its gas debt totaling nearly $200 million. The previous day, Russia had cut supplies to Belarus by more than half.

A spokeswoman for the energy ministry in Belarus, Lyudmila Zenkovich, said Thursday that Belarus had received $228 million from Gazprom for gas transit.

Belarus had said earlier that Gazprom owed it $260 million in transit fees, which Russia denies. Belarus warned Thursday that it might still reduce the flow of Russian gas in proportion to the unpaid amount.

European Union members Lithuania and Poland reported Thursday they were receiving normal shipments of gas. Both countries had reported reductions in flows of Russian oil via Belarus on Wednesday.

Gazprom starting making cuts to its Belarussian shipments on Monday, while the government in Belarus threatened to completely block the flow of Russian natural gas to Europe.

Russia temporarily cut gas supplies to Belarus and Ukraine several times in recent years because of pricing and payment disputes. Last year, a similar dispute with Ukraine left consumers in much of southeastern Europe without heat or power during 13 days of bitterly cold temperatures.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.