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  Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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Belarus's president said Friday his country has yet to sign a contract for Russian oil supplies in February
Belarus's president said Friday his country has yet to sign a contract for Russian oil supplies in February, but promised there would be no shortfalls in the transit of Russia's crude to Europe via Belarusian pipes. The former Soviet allies were embroiled in a bitter energy dispute earlier this month, which caused three-day disruption in supplies to some European consumers and undermined Russia's reputation as a reliable supplier. "No oil contracts have been signed for February," Alexander Lukashenko, who has been dubbed "Europe's last dictator", said at a ceremony to confer certificates to prominent Belarusian scientists. Three days ago the hardline leader said Minsk would demand that Moscow pay rent for the Belarusian land under pipelines it uses to pump oil and gas to Europe. Russia suspended crude supplies via a major pipeline running through Belarus to Europe in early January after Belarus imposed a transit fee on Russia's Europe-bound crude in retaliation for Moscow's move to hike the gas price for its Western neighbor and impose an oil export duty. Lukashenko accused Russia, whose Urals crude blend is currently trading at around $51 on world markets, of seeking to charge Belarus oil prices above international levels. "This is unacceptable," he said. "I have given direct instructions to a delegation conducting negotiations that companies offering such prices will have to pay additional duties when pumping oil to Europe." "We must compensate our losses. We are not going to argue with them because it is their oil, but we will pump our oil without losses," he said. The energy row between the two nations was resolved after Belarus relented and lifted its transit duty, and Russia later cut its export duty from $180.7 to $53 per metric ton, avoiding potentially crippling economic consequences for its neighbor, which relies heavily on receipts from refining and re-exporting Russian oil. In a move to find a counterbalance to Russia, which the Belarusian leader has accused of "flexing its energy muscles", Lukashenko unexpectedly said Wednesday the energy crisis with Moscow had shown Belarus needed investors from Europe and the United States. "If Western energy concerns had a share in Belarusian gas pipeline grids, Russia would not be this harsh on us," Lukashenko said in an interview with political scientist Alexander Rahr for the German Welt newspaper. Belarus's First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko, the country's top energy negotiator with Russia, said Wednesday that Minsk would try to diversify its energy sources by using more bio fuels and constructing coal-fired and hydropower plants.
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