MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Russia has halted oil supplies to Belarus after the two countries failed to renegotiate a contract amid talks on further improving economic ties.
Belarus’ state-owned Belneftekhim oil company said Friday that Moscow has stopped supplying crude oil to the country’s refineries until contracts for this year are drawn up. The two Belarusian refineries were operating at low capacity, running on reserves from last year.
Russian oil company Transneft, which operates the Russian pipelines in Belarus, confirmed the supplies were suspended.
Oil transit to Europe remains unaffected. Natural gas supplies were not affected.
Belarus has been relying on cheap energy and loans from Russia for more than a quarter century. The Kremlin has recently increased pressure on its ally, raising energy prices and cutting subsidies. It argued that Belarus should accept closer economic integration if it wants to continue receiving energy resources at Russia’s domestic prices.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko held two rounds of talks in December, but failed to reach an agreement on deeper integration and on oil and gas prices.
Putin said Russia was not ready to “subsidize” energy supplies without a closer economic integration with Belarus, and Lukashenko insisted he would not sign off on the integration until the issues with oil and gas supplies were resolved.
In late December, the Belarusian leader ordered the country’s government to look for alternative oil suppliers.
There are concerns in Belarus that the economic discussions are a plot by Russia to swallow up Belarus — those concerns have been fueled by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
Lukashenko repeatedly rejected the idea, vowing that his country would never become part of Russia.
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