Belarus criticises Russia over gas price rise

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Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian President, hit out at Russian leaders yesterday over gas price increases, calling the move "shameless" and threatening to charge Moscow for military facilities and oil transit across his country.

The remarks from an agitated Mr Lukashenko came days after his government averted a New Year's Day cut-off of Russian natural-gas supplies by grudgingly agreeing to pay twice the previous price this year and more in the future.

The gas dispute was part of a struggle over Russia's moves to end years of preferential treatment that have helped Mr Lukashenko keep his country's Soviet-style economy running and maintain his grip on power.

Belarus has stopped importing Russian oil as it seeks to persuade Moscow to reconsider a new customs duty on exports to its former Soviet neighbour, saying the additional charge makes oil too expensive and could badly damage the economy.