According to Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev, pressure from Russia’s Tax Service leaves Gazprom no choice but to call in the debts owed to it by Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova for past deliveries of gas. On the eve of negotiations in Kyiv, Vyakhirev complained that recent tax claims on Gazprom deprive it of the flexibility to deal with the debtor countries. The company is now compelled to seek cash payments instead of accepting barter settlements. It is also to demand prompt reimbursement instead of rescheduling and restructuring the debts. Vyakhirev warned official Moscow that “Russia’s position on CIS energy markets is at stake. If Russia leaves these markets, more patient suppliers will take its place.” (Russian agencies, June 23)
Gazprom’s claims to both the Ukrainian government and various Ukrainian entities (some of whom seem elusive) total more than US$1 billion. Belarus owes US$240 million for gas delivered since April 1, 1996 (when the Kremlin wrote off the debts owed by Belarus to that point). Moldova, including Transdniester, owes US$493 million, including Transdniester’s disproportionately large share. On June 16, Gazprom reduced gas deliveries to Belarus by 40 percent and to Moldova by 50 percent. Belarus had contracted for 16 and Moldova for 3.3 billion cubic meters of gas from Gazprom for 1998. (Itar-Tass, Belapan, Flux, June 16 and 17; Kommersant Daily, June 18. See also Central Asia section below.)
YEREVAN INSISTS IT MAY DECLARE UNIFICATION WITH KARABAKH.