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Oil transit via Belarus has yet to resume - Russian official

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Russian oil transit through Belarus to Europe has yet to be resumed, a Russian deputy economics minister said Wednesday.
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MOSCOW, January 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russian oil transit through Belarus to Europe has yet to be resumed, a Russian deputy economics minister said Wednesday.

Andrei Sharonov cited the head of Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft, Semyon Vainshtok, as saying that no increase in pressure had yet been registered at oil pumping stations on the Belarusian-Polish border.

Belarus announced earlier in the day it had canceled its punitive transit duty of $45 per metric ton of Russian oil transported to Europe via its territory. The fee angered Russia and caused a disruption in oil deliveries to European countries.

Sharonov said Belarus could use the oil it siphoned off from the pipeline to resume supplies to Europe. Russia's Transneft said Monday Belarus had tapped 79,000 metric tons of Russia's Europe-bound oil in the previous three days.

Sharonov also said Transneft was waiting for written confirmation from Belarus that it was ready to pump Russian oil to Europe.

Russia and Belarus have been embroiled in an energy dispute jeopardizing Moscow's reputation as a reliable energy supplier. Russia doubled the natural gas price for Belarus to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters from January 1, and also imposed an oil export duty of $180.7 per metric ton of crude exported to Belarus. Minsk responded by imposing the oil transit levy.

Russian and Belarusian delegations have begun further negotiations in Moscow.

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