Russia cuts gas to Ukraine

Russia, chasing billions of dollars in unpaid debts, began cutting off gas to its neighbours, Ukraine and Belarus, raising the prospect of disruption in supplies to Europe, Reuter reports from Moscow.

In the Belarussian capital, Minsk, the head of the republic's gas firm Beltransgaz said Russia promised to ease a sharp cut in gas supplies after the government paid part of its big debt. In Ukraine, an official described the cut-off as 'a bomb exploding on Ukraine'. Supplies fell by 50 million cubic metres yesterday and may drop by another 20 million.

Ukraine imports more than 60 per cent of its gas from Russia. Most of the rest came from Turkmenistan, which cut off supplies in February because of non-payment.