JUNE 23 2010 17:51h

Gas supply to Lithuania, Kaliningrad falls 40 pct

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Gas supplies via Belarus to Lithuania and the Russian Baltic territory of Kaliningrad fell 40 percent Wednesday, amid a feud between Moscow and Minsk, the head of Lithuania's national gas firm said.

- The reduction in the level now is more than 40 percent- , chief executive of Lietuvos Dujos, told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Lithuania did not receive any notice from Belarus ahead of the reduction, he added. Russia on Wednesday cut gas supplies to Belarus by 60 percent, as a payment feud between the ex-Soviet neighbours that has raised fears for European consumers went into a third day. The dispute is a particular worry for Lithuania, since the Baltic state relies entirely on Russia for its gas, piped via Belarus. Lithuania is itself a transit route for gas to Kaliningrad.

Valentukevicius said that Lietuvos Dujos would be pushed into reducing onward gas supplies to Kaliningrad in the event that Lithuanian customers faced a shortfall. Lithuanian Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas told reporters his country was preparing to import gas via neighbouring Latvia

- We are prepared, if needed, to get gas via Latvia. If there is a major reduction, it is possible we'll limit consumption- Sekmokas said.

-Consumption in summer is less, so I think we should not face any major problems- he noted.-.--.-

Supplies of Russian gas to Europe

The European Union closely watches gas disputes between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbours after a row between Moscow and Kiev led to supplies of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine being cut off for two weeks early last year. That dispute remains firmly etched in the minds of European policymakers as it left several EU countries deprived of gas during a harsh winter. Earlier Wednesday Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite -- a former member of the EU's executive European Commission -- said energy feuds in the region were a major worry for the 27-nation bloc.

-This repeated form of dealing with relations, especially in the field of energy, between Russia and other countries should raise concern for the whole of Europe- Grybauskaite told reporters.

- That is why we are saying that the security of supply of gas and other energy sources should be guaranteed, particularly for EU countries. This is a common matter- Grybauskaite said.

Former communist countries in the EU such as Lithuania which count on Russian gas have repeatedly pushed for the bloc to come up with a joint energy policy. Sekmokas told AFP that he hoped the latest crisis would drive forward plans for a gas link with Poland to help reduce Lithuania's reliance on Russian supplies. He said that he had raised the issue with EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger.

- The commissioner confirmed this is an important project and they would secure financial support for this long-term project- Sekmokas said