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Belarus to raise fees for oil shipments from Russia to Europe

Belarus will increase fees for pumping Russian oil to Europe through its territory starting February 15, raising concern a dispute between the two countries that cut off supplies in the European Union could flare up again.

Belarus will charge Russia 46% more to ship its crude west, Natalia Patseyko, a spokeswoman for the country's economy ministry, said yesterday in a phone interview from Minsk. „Russia will pay us an average of 60 cents per ton of oil for 100 kilometers, the same price its oil operator pays for transit on Russian territory,” Patseyko said. „Today, Russia pays us 41 cents per one ton for 100 kilometers.”

Russia, the world's second-biggest oil exporter, cut off oil shipments to European Union countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Germany, through Belarus for two days last month, accusing its former Soviet Union country government of stealing crude. The Belarus cabinet denied the accusation. The dispute came after Belarus demanded a transit tax of $45 per ton of Russian oil, while Russia imposed an export duty of $180 a ton on crude for Belarus and doubled its natural-gas price for the country in late December.

Belarus depends on Russia and other former Soviet Union countries for energy supplies. Russia ships a third of its oil exports to Europe via the Druzhba pipeline, the world's biggest. It runs from Samara, in southeastern Russia, through southern Belarus, where it splits into a northern and southern branch. The northern branch takes oil into Poland and from there to Germany. The southern branch runs through Ukraine to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Belarus doesn't plan any talks with Russia over new prices for the time being, said Aleksandr Timoshenko, a spokesman for the Belarus government.

Belarus wants to raise at least $3.5 billion in 2007 by increasing oil transportation and other tariffs, President Alexander Lukashenko said on January 23. „Our strategic resource is geopolitical location, and we should use it,” Lukashenko said while visiting the OAO Naftan oil refinery near the town of Vitebsk on January 23, according to a statement by his press service. „We should ask Russia to pay” more „for oil shipments, other services.” (Bloomberg)