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PM Fradkov orders second leg of Baltic Pipeline System

Russia's government approved on Monday a plan to build a new pipeline to bypass Belarus that supplies oil to the European Union.

In a press release Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's office said approval had been given to the Baltic Pipeline System-2 (BPS-2) and that the Transneft and RosStroy companies had been instructed to make detailed plans.The pipeline would divert oil from the Druzhba pipeline, which runs through Belarus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, instead taking it north from Unecha in western Russia to the Russian port of Primorsk, on the Gulf of Finland. The approval comes amid a down-turn in relations between Russia and the European Union and also follows an acrimonious row over oil transit between Russia and its neighbor Belarus at the start of this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said February 1 that the country would look for ways to reduce its dependence on transit nations for its oil and gas exports to Europe. That aim is gradually being realized, particularly through expansion of the Primorsk terminal as well as increased shipments from the Barents Sea around the coast of Norway. "We are starting the feasibility study and hope to launch the new pipeline in 18 months," Transneft's vice-president Sergei Grigoryev told Reuters. (,