Same old Putin
From the AP-
MINSK, Belarus, Dec. 26 -- Residents of Belarus's capital stocked up on warm clothes and electric heaters as fears rose Tuesday that Russia would soon cut off the natural gas supply on which the country depends.It appears Putin has learned nothing from last year's standoff with the Ukraine. Either that or Russia and Gazprom are better prepared than they were last year. This year it will probably come down to any effect this have in other parts of Europe. Only If Western Europe is in for a shortage, do I see Russia changing course. After all the country has a psychopath for President. Putin doesn't care how many lives the cutoff of natural gas will take. After all his money coffers not being filled matters more than a human life. And Putin is popular at home. Its a sad state of affairs in Russia in more ways than one.
Russia says Belarus must pay more than twice as much for gas next year -- and even more later -- and turn over a half-share in its pipeline system, a major transit route to Europe, if it wants to avoid a New Year's gas shutoff.
Talks between Belarus and Russia on Tuesday failed to resolve the issue and a senior official of Russia's natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, said a cutoff was certain without an agreement.
"In the absence of a contract, there is not and cannot be a basis for the delivery of gas to any country or any consumer in the world," said Gazprom's export division chief, Alexander Medvedev.
Medvedev said a shutoff would not affect the 30 percent of Russian gas deliveries to Europe that go through Belarus.
The dispute strongly echoes last year's crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which briefly disrupted supplies of Russian gas to Western Europe. But in that case, Russia's price demand was seen as political pressure against a Western-leaning government; this time it is against a country whose longtime leader has close ties with Moscow.
Belarusan opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich suggested Gazprom's demands were aimed at forcing President Alexander Lukashenko to cede control over the pipeline network and other attributes of sovereignty in exchange for continued Russian support for his authoritarian regime.
"Through energy pressure, the Kremlin is trying to force Lukashenko to integrate according to the Russian scenario, which is extremely dangerous for Belarus," Milinkevich said.
Lukashenko said the talks on Russian supplies were "very difficult" and urged energy saving. "In the conditions of pressure on Belarus one must know how to live within one's means and economize, especially on energy," he said.
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