Belarus Scrambles For Oil Amid Supply Standoff With Russia

Belarus says it has asked several European countries to sell it oil in the face of a tariff dispute with Russia, its regular supplier.

“All commercial departments of our plants, of the Belarusian Oil Company, have been holding talks practically on a daily basis. I think we will get alternative sources for oil supplies soon. It is about all possibilities — Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, wherever. We are working on it now,” Deputy Prime Minister Dzmitry Krutoy said on January 14.

Krutoy’s statement comes less than two weeks after Moscow abruptly halted oil shipments to Belarus.

Belarus has been at odds with Russia over oil-transit prices for some time against a backdrop of increasing pressure by Moscow on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to deepen integration between the two neighbors.

A two-month deal on natural-gas prices hours before a December 31 deadline struck helped the sides avoid a gas shutoff to start the year.

Belarus is heavily reliant on Russia for fuel and funding and is a key transit route for Russian energy supplies to Europe.

Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement in 1999 to form a unified state, but little progress has been made in the ensuing two decades.

Meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenka last year failed to bring the two sides together as the Belarusian president noted he was merely seeking “equal” terms.

Belarusian protests in December targeted the perceived secrecy of the talks and objected to closer ties to Russia.

With reporting by BelTA and Belsat
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Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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