Russian oil flowing to Europe through Belarus despite row

Russian oil was flowing normally to European Union customers via Belarus yesterday, Belarus's state oil firm said, despite an unresolved oil pricing row between the Kremlin and its former Soviet neighbour.

Russia halted oil supplies to Belarussian refineries after talks between the former Soviet states broke down on New Year's Eve, according to traders from major Russian oil firms.

That has raised the spectre of another winter supply disruption for energy consumers in the European Union, though talks between Belarussian and Russian negotiators were continuing in Moscow on Monday.

Belarus state oil company Belneftekhim said Russian oil was flowing normally through the Druzhba pipeline to European Union customers.

"Oil is flowing to Belarus," a spokeswoman for the company said, adding the Druzhba oil pipeline–which connects Russian fields in West Siberia to customers in the European Union–was working normally.

Traders said two affected Belarussian refineries, Naftan and Mozyr, had enough stockpiled crude to continue operations for around a week. The spokeswoman for Belneftekhim said the refineries were working at a normal pace.

Russia, the world's largest oil and gas producer, says it is switching to market terms after subsidising the economies of former Soviet neighbours with cheap energy for years.

A fifth of Europe's gas comes from Russia via Ukraine and Belarus. Large volumes of Russian oil also go through pipelines that traverse the two ex-Soviet states.

 

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