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International Herald Tribune: Belarus blocks supply of Russian oil to Europe

Bloomberg News, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, The Associated Press Published: January 8, 2007

WARSAW: A Russian oil pipeline carrying supplies across Belarus to Poland and Germany has stopped operating in an increasingly bitter trade dispute between Moscow and Minsk, Polish officials said Monday.

Simon Vainshtok, head of Transneft, the Russian state-owned oil pipeline monopoly, accused Belarus of siphoning Russian oil from the pipeline.

“On Jan. 6, the Belarussian side, without warning anyone, unilaterally started illegally siphoning off oil from the Druzhba pipeline designed solely for the transportation of oil to consumers in Western Europe,” Vainshtok said, according to Russian news agencies.

The Transneft chief said that Belarus had diverted 79,000 tons of oil so far, and called on Minsk to ensure the uninterrupted transit of oil. He added that Russia was doing all it could to increase oil exports to Europe via other routes.

Only last week, Russia and Belarus promised to set aside their argument and keep pumping oil to the rest of Europe, where refiners are heavily reliant on Russian supplies to make winter heating oil and other products.

The feud grew more intense over the weekend as Belarus subpoenaed the head of Transneft and Russia demanded an end to the oil transit fees imposed by Belarus.

“Oil supplies via the Druzhba pipeline to Poland and Germany were halted,” said Tomasz Zakrzewski, a spokesman for Polish pipeline operator PERN. In Russian, Druzhba means “friendship.”

The German government confirmed that the pipeline, which supplied two refineries in Germany, had been shut down. “I can confirm the Druzhba pipeline has been closed,” said Hendrik Luchtmeier, a spokesman for the Economic Ministry. “We are trying to ascertain the reasons.”

The Druzhba pipeline to Central Europe is one of the world’s biggest, and Russia supplies around a fifth of Germany’s oil needs.

In Brussels, the European Union’s energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said that the cut posed “no immediate risk” to energy supplies in the EU. However, he said he was seeking an “urgent and detailed explanation” of the cuts from authorities in Belarus and Russia.

Piebalgs also said he was considering calling a special meeting of energy experts from the 27 EU nations to discuss the situation in case they had to draw on oil stocks.

His spokesman, Ferrán Tarradellas Espuny, said Poland had 70 days of reserves and Germany 130 days.

Piotr Naimski, deputy economy minister of Poland, said: “This shows that oil supplies from this direction are untrustworthy.” and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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