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Belarus is siphoning off Russian oil designated for Europe from the Druzhba pipeline going through its territory
Belarus is siphoning off Russian oil designated for Europe from the Druzhba pipeline going through its territory, the Russian oil transit monopoly said Monday. Three European Union nations - Lithuania, Poland and Germany - import Russian oil through Belarusian pipelines. "From January 6, Belarus began tapping oil destined only for customers in western Europe from the Druzhba pipeline unilaterally, without any warning," Semyon Vainshtok, the head of Transneft, said. He said Belarus siphoned off 900 metric tons of oil in the past 24 hours alone. "In all, 79,000 metric tons of oil has been tapped since January 6," he said. Russia doubled the gas price for Belarus to $100 per 1,000 cu m from January 1, and also imposed an oil export duty of $180.7 per metric ton for the ten-million nation. Belarus responded January 3 by introducing a transit duty of $45 per metric ton of Russian oil. Vainshtok called on Belarus to observe international norms, which outlaw transit discrimination. "Transit is a 'sacred cow'," he said, adding that Transneft was doing its best to increase oil exports through other pipelines. "The pipelines in Primorsk [outside St. Petersburg] are operating at maximum capacity of 76.5 million tons a year [1.54 million bbl/d]," Vainshtok said. The situation with Belarus resembles the energy crisis early last year when Russia, which supplies more than 25% of the EU's oil and natural gas, suspended gas exports to Ukraine amid a gas price row, affecting consumers in western Europe. Ukraine later admitted tapping Russia's Europe-designated gas. Poland's economics ministry said earlier Monday that oil had stopped coming through the Druzhba pipeline, and Poland's PERN company operating the Polish section of the pipeline said it had sent a letter to the Belarusian operator last night but received no answer. Poland's Deputy Economics Minister Piotr Naimski said his country still had enough oil reserves to last 80 days.
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