No more preferential terms for oil in Belarus

Since Russia and Belarus have failed to agree on a price for oil supplies in 2010, from January 1, Minsk will supposedly get oil on general terms, which means full payment of customs duties.

In 2009, Belarus enjoyed duty-free prices for oil and its derivatives, intended both for domestic use and transit. But now Russia says only oil for domestic consumption can be exempt from duties – a stance Belarus is strongly opposed to. On December 31, during talks in Moscow, the Russian government proposed this option to Minsk, which was declined.

As a result, with no agreement signed, starting Friday Belarus should pay 100 per cent of the customs fees attracted.

Moscow says it has informed their partners of the new terms. At the same time the Russian government is ready to negotiate its offer and has invited a Belarusian delegation to Moscow in January for this purpose.

Minsk, however, is unhappy with Russia’s stance, and is accusing it of undermining the principles of the Customs Union between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Oil flows to Belarusian refineries have been suspended, Reuters reported on Sunday, quoting unnamed traders from Russian oil producers. Meanwhile, Belarus has denied reports that supplies of Russian oil through its territory have been cut off.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has stepped into the Russia – Belarus oil transit dispute, calling on the Energy minister to find an immediate solution.

"I am asking you to continue with the talks. I'm hoping that an agreement will be reached soon based upon our mutual interest and be in line with Russian law," Putin said.

Also, Russia’s oil transporter Transneft has assured that the outcome of the talks will not affect European consumers.