Russia-Belarus Tensions Emerge Over Oil Supply Routes


Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to route the country’s trade in oil and oil products exclusively through the Baltic states, and said Minsk’s relations with Russia could break down over a festering subsidy row.

The country has long benefited from buying crude oil and some oil products cheaply from Russia and re-exporting them, helping Lukashenko stay in power for a quarter of a century while running the economy largely along Soviet lines, Reuters writes.

Also on Thursday, Andrei Rybakov, Chairman of the Belarusian state petrochemical concern Belneftekhim, told BelTA news agency his country has not received official proposals from Russia concerning the acquisition of Belarusian oil refineries.

Reports about Russia allegedly considering buying Belarusian oil refineries in order to compensate for Belarus’ losses caused by the so-called tax maneuver were released via Russian Telegram channels the other day and spread by mass media later on.

“No official information like that has been received, this is why commenting on any statements is meaningless. Once there is an official word, official proposals, then official comments will be released,” Rybakov said.

According to him, ways to compensate losses of the Belarusian oil processing industry due to the tax maneuver in Russia were discussed at the government conference hosted by the head of state earlier that day.

“First of all, the head of state gave instructions that these mechanisms should not affect ordinary citizens of our country. A broad range of possibilities will have to be explored soon. Economic and legal calculations will have to be made,” said the Belneftekhim head.

The state-run company has set up a taskforce to look into alternative ways of delivering oil to Belarus. “We always think about it,” added Andrei Rybakov. “Certainly, Russian oil offers the biggest profit margin for now. But the margin will erode over the years as Russian prices get closer to the world price. It is no secret that in some years we received alternative oil supplies via Baltic states. These channels have not been cut off. We constantly monitor our options. They are available as of today.”