Belarus Threatens to Take Oil from Russian Transit Pipeline — Belta

MINSK (Reuters) — Belarus will start taking oil from the Druzhba transit pipeline if Russia does not supply it with the required volumes of crude, the Belarusian president said on Friday, the state news agency Belta reported. 

Belarus and Russia, a major global oil exporter, have failed to agree on terms for oil supplies for 2020. Russian crude flows to its neighbor have dwindled to a trickle since Jan. 1, prompting Minsk to search for fuel elsewhere.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said refineries in Belarus received 500,000 tonnes of Russian oil in January, down from a planned 2 million tonnes.

"If Russia doesn't supply oil in necessary volumes, we would start taking it from the transit pipeline," he said.

The Druzhba pipeline, which crosses Belarus territory, supplies about 1 million barrels of Russian oil to Europe, including Poland and Germany.

Lukashenko said Belarus was in talks with Poland to receive supplies of U.S. and Saudi oil via a pipeline from Gdansk.

The oil dispute is part of wider political discord between Moscow and Minsk over setting up a unified state, plans for which were originally announced in the 1990s.

Minsk has grown increasingly wary of the potential merger with Russia fearing it would in turn into a Kremlin takeover. 

Lukashenko said earlier on Friday that Moscow had hinted at giving Minsk a deal on energy prices in exchange for Belarus joining Russia in the unified state.

Lukashenko met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week, but they failed to agree on a new oil deal for 2020.

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