Belarus raised the stakes Tuesday in a natural gas payment dispute with Russia, cutting all gas flow to western Europe after Moscow stepped up gas cuts aimed at Belarus.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced the pipeline cutoff in Minsk, after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Mr. Lukashenko said the dispute is quickly turning into a full-blown "gas war."
Earlier Tuesday, Russia doubled gas supply cuts to Belarus to 30 percent of normal volume, in a push to force its neighbor to pay what Moscow says is a debt of nearly $200 million.
For its part, Belarus says the Russian state-run gas monopoly Gazprom owes it more than $250 million in gas transit fees.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says his country is prepared to boost Russian gas flow to Europe, to offset any shortages to the West from the dispute.
The two sides failed to reconcile their differences in talks Saturday, prompting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to say the dispute will likely be resolved in court.
Russia has temporarily cut gas supplies to both Ukraine and Belarus in recent years because of pricing and payment disputes. In January 2009, 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.