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Russia’s pipeline giant Transneft has enough capacity to export 24 million tons of crude oil to Belarus this year, a company official told Reuters today, after yesterday Moscow and Minsk announced that they had settled their dispute concerning shipments of natural gas and overdue payments that had sparked tensions between the otherwise friendly neighbors.
Minsk agreed to gradually pay the outstanding $726 million Moscow said it owed Gazprom—an agreement that was seen as good enough by the Russian side. In return, Russia would resume crude oil shipments to its neighbor. These were suspended last month as a retaliatory measure after Belarus refused to pay for the gas.
Igor Demin, adviser to Transneft’s president, added that the company first needs to receive confirmation from Belarusian refineries that they will be able to handle the 20 million tons to be delivered over the remaining three quarters of this year.
For the second quarter, Russian exporters have allocated 4 million tons of crude for Belarus, the same amount that was shipped during the first three months of the year, after half a million tons were halted due to the payments dispute.
Russian deputy PM Arkady Dvorkovich separately said that the increased shipments could start as soon as this month, as soon as payments for the gas deliveries begin from the Belarusian side.
In addition to the higher crude oil shipments, Moscow and Minsk agreed that the former will refinance Minsk’s $750-800-million interstate debt due this year, including the main debt plus interest, Belarus’ first Deputy PM Vasily Matuyshevsky said.
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The news is a sharp turn away from the growing tensions displayed by the two countries earlier this year, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claiming that the country could survive without Russian oil and accusing Russia of reinstalling border controls because of Belarus’ move to the West.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.