MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Russia cut off electricity supplies to struggling Belarus over unpaid bills on Wednesday, raising the heat on its economically struggling neighbor.
Imports of Russian electricity account for only about 10 percent of Belarus' needs, but Wednesday's cutoff will ratchet up pressure on Belarus, which is already suffering its worst financial crisis since the 1991 Soviet collapse. It has recently devalued the national currency, causing panic buying of goods and huge lines at currency exchange offices.
Lyudmila Zenkovich, a spokeswoman for the Belarusian Energy Ministry, said that it's not clear when Belarus will be able to pay off the debt as the country's currency reserves are running low
Russia has traditionally been Belarus' main sponsor and ally, but it phased out economic subsidies in recent years as it pushed for control of Belarus' industrial facilities. Last week Moscow provided Belarus with a $800 million emergency loan under the auspices of a Russia-dominated economic alliance of ex-Soviet nations, but it fell well short of Belarus' requirements.