Belarus Escalates Tug-Of-War Over Russian Gas

The president of Belarus ordered a halt to the transit of Russian natural gas to Europe on Tuesday, escalating an energy conflict with Moscow over unpaid debts that he said was turning into a “gas war.”The move came after Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom announced that it was doubling cuts in supplies to Belarus to 30 percent of normal volumes on Tuesday in an effort to collect some $200 million it says the country owes. The Belarusian president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, accused Gazprom in turn of failing to pay $260 million in fees to transport gas via Belarusia’s pipeline to Europe — roughly a fifth of Russia’s westward exports — and ordered the flow halted.“I have ordered my government to stop transit through Belarus as long as Gazprom does not pay for the transit,” Mr. Lukashenko said in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov. “They have not paid one kopek for a half a year.”Gazprom officials denied that, saying that the government of Belarus had been hind