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Europe Oil Disruption During Belarus-Russian Spat
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A dispute between Russia and Belarus over transit fees has caused major disruption to oil deliveries from Russia to Poland, Germany and Ukraine running through Belarus over the weekend.

The Druzhba pipeline "is not pumping oil in the direction of Poland, Germany and Ukraine under orders from Belneftekhim," a spokesman for Belarus' pipeline operator Belneftekhim was quoted as saying.

Poland and Germany confirmed the stoppage of Russian oil supply via the Druzhba pipeline.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced the disruption of oil supplies from Russia on Monday, stating it posed "no immediate risk" to energy supplies in the bloc. Piebalgs added that Russian and Belarussian authorities had been asked for an explanation.

Belarus and Russia are in a stare-down over oil transit shortly after resolving a trade dispute over natural gas. The international game of one-upmanship has seen Moscow imposing export duties on crude oil supplied to Belarus while Minsk has slapped a new customs duty on Russian oil transiting through Belarus.

Semyon Vainshtok, chief of Russian pipeline operator Transneft, on Monday accused Belarus of siphoning off Russian oil intended for western Europe.

"On Jan. 6, the Belarussian side, without warning anyone, unilaterally started illegal oil tapping from the Druzhba pipeline," which amounted to over 79,000 tons of Russian oil, Interfax quoted Vainshtok as saying.

Vainshtok urged Belarus to ensure transit deliveries of Russian oil to western Europe.

The stoppage came just over a week after Belarus agreed to pay more than double the previous price for Russian gas supplies this year.

Under a deal with Russian gas giant Gazprom, Belarus would buy Russian gas at US$100 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007, up from US$46.7 in 2006. In exchange, Gazprom agreed to pay more for gas transit through Belarus to Europe.

Russia provides about a quarter of the oil and gas consumed in the EU, some of which is piped through Belarus, mainly to Poland, Germany and Lithuania.

(Xinhua News Agency January 9, 2007)

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