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Russia may cut oil output after closing main pipeline

Russia, the world's second-biggest oil exporter, may cut crude output after shutting its main export pipeline to punish neighboring Belarus, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

The government “needs to discuss with Russian oil companies the possibility of reducing crude production in connection with the problems that have arisen over transit through Belarus,” Putin told ministers in the Kremlin today, in remarks broadcast on state television.
State pipeline operator OAO Transneft yesterday shut down its Druzhba, or Friendship pipeline, which was moving 1.4 million barrels of oil a day, saying Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's government was stealing crude. That halted deliveries to Poland and Germany, followed by Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. These countries are now tapping stockpiles to avoid rationing.
Russian officials involved in the standoff must defend the national economy while safeguarding the interests of energy consumers in Western Europe, Putin told ministers.
Druzhba carries about a third of Russia's oil exports to Europe. Oil and gas account for more than 60% of the economy in Russia, which pumped 9.6 million barrels per day on average in 2006.