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Russia ready to resume oil supplies via Belarus

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Transneft [RTS: TRNF] is waiting for Belarus to confirm it is prepared for the resumption of Russian oil transit to Europe via its pipelines, the head of the Russian pipeline monopoly said Wednesday.
MOSCOW, January 10 (RIA Novosti) - Transneft [RTS: TRNF] is waiting for Belarus to confirm it is prepared for the resumption of Russian oil transit to Europe via its pipelines, the head of the Russian pipeline monopoly said Wednesday.

Russia halted crude supplies to Europe late Sunday, saying Belarus was siphoning oil from the Druzhba pipeline, following a tit-for-tat price and tariff dispute. An agreement was reached to resume supplies earlier Wednesday, after Belarus agreed to lift its transit levy imposed after Moscow doubled the price of natural gas and introduced a duty on oil supplies to Belarus as of January 1.

Semyon Vainshtok said Transneft was waiting for a telegram from Minsk saying it is ready for supplies to be resumed, without setting conditions.

"We will register it [the telegram]... And we will be ready to start the [pipeline] operations," Vainshtok said.

Transneft Vice President Sergei Grigoryev said the company had received Belarus's resolution abolishing the transit levy of $45 per metric ton of crude Wednesday evening, and added he hoped supplies to Europe would resume in full Thursday.

Transneft will start pumping oil along the Druzhba pipeline after Belarus has pumped 79,000 metric tons of oil "temporarily stored" in the country, he said.

Russian officials earlier accused Belarus of tapping this volume of oil in transit to European consumers, as payment in kind of its transit tax.

Grigoryev said that pumping 79,000 metric tons of crude would take about eight hours, after which Transneft would be able to resume Europe-bound supplies.

Russia's ambassador at the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, said after a meeting in Brussels with EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs Wednesday that supplies via Druzhba, one of the world's largest pipelines, could resume very soon.

"I hope it is a matter of hours," Chizhov said.

The interruption in supplies has affected Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia and further damaged Russia's reputation as a core energy supplier to Europe following a similar energy row with Ukraine involving natural gas, this time last year.

The row has triggered accusations in Europe that Russia uses hydrocarbons as a political tool, and discussions on the need to diversify energy sources.

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