Former Soviet satellite state Belarus is to be hit with a five-fold increase in the price of gas it receives from Russian gas titan Gazprom.

The alarming increase from the current rate of $47 per 1000 cubic meters represents the end of special rates for the Russian neighbor and a readjustment to bring it into line with prices for the rest of Europe, the gas major said.

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller told the Belarusian energy minister that Russian gas must be supplied at prices equivalent to the European level, the BBC has reported. The new price rate will be applied from the beginning of 2007.

The development means that all of Russia’s neighbors which had received a ‘special’ discount rate have now had their prices increased. At the end of last year price increases for supplies to Ukraine and Georgia hit the headlines because of the acrimonious atmosphere which surrounded those developments. In fact, following a dispute, Gazprom no longer supplies gas directly to Ukraine.

Gazprom currently delivers around 21 billion cubic meters of gas to Belarus per year.