Russia halts oil exports to Belarus

Russia has halted deliveries of crude to the two Belarusian oil refineries, a representative of the Belarusian State Petrochemical Industry Concern (Belnaftachim) told BelaPAN.

The official said that the oil refineries continued normal operations using crude from storage reservoirs as the government sought to prevent the plants from stopping.

Aliaksandr Lukašenka spoke with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in their second phone conversation in as many days, discussing the supply of oil and gas to Belarus. Later that day, he met with top officials in charge of Belarus’ petrochemical industry and instructed them to clinch deals on the supply of Russian oil within hours and also secure oil imports “from alternative sources,” namely by rail from Baltic seaports and using the Soviet-built Druzhba pipeline, which is currently used solely for transporting Russian oil to Europe.

Reuters reported on December 31 that Minsk and Moscow had yet to agree on oil supply and transit terms for 2020.

Russian oil companies avoided preparing documents for oil deliveries to Belarus starting January 1 and have already diverted volumes to other destinations, Reuters reported with reference to sources familiar with the matter.

Speaking in a December 24 interview with prominent Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov, the Belarusian leader warned that Minsk would have to look for alternative oil and gas suppliers if Russia set prices too high.

In what appeared to be an ultimatum, Mr. Lukašenka said that Belarus could use two of the three Druzhba pipeline legs running through the country for transporting Saudi or American oil from Poland’s seaport of Gdansk.

Since Russia annually supplies 70 million tons of oil to Europe through the Druzhba pipeline system, it would be possible to transport only some 20 million tons as only one pipeline leg would remain available, Mr. Lukašenka warned.