Russia and Belarus have signed an array of agreements on crude oil deliveries and uninterrupted transits to Europe, a Russian deputy prime minister said on Wednesday.
Igor Sechin said the deals included "amendments to an agreement on oil deliveries to Belarus, oil pricing procedures, and a joint statement on oil transit guarantees."
The deals "meet the interests of Russian companies" and "regulate subsidized supplies to Belarus" this year, Sechin told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, without elaborating.
Russia earlier offered to supply the ex-Soviet republic with some 6.3 million metric tons of oil for domestic consumption duty-free and demanded Minsk pay full import duties on crude it refines and transits to Europe, dropping considerable subsidies.
Belarus requested Russia to supply up to 30 million metric tons of oil duty free, saying it would otherwise increase transit fees for Europe-bound oil from $3.90 to $45.
Russian oil supplies via the ex-Soviet republic have continued throughout the dispute. A spat between Moscow and Minsk in 2007 led to disruptions in supplies to Poland and Germany.
Sechin and Belarus's first deputy premier, Vladimir Semashko, also signed a statement pledging uninterrupted oil transits to Europe.
"Russia and Belarus reaffirm their commitment to international energy security principles and guarantee stable oil shipments across Russia and Belarus," the statement said.
Russia has had frequent disputes with its former Soviet neighbors over energy prices in recent years, as it has moved to bring tariffs closer to free market levels. The West has accused Moscow of using energy as a political tool in ties with Ukraine and Belarus, major transit nations for its natural gas and oil flows.
Speaking at a news conference after the talks, Semashko confirmed Minsk would receive 6.3 million metric tons of oil duty-free this year, but the volume could rise later depending on the country's economic performance.
Belarus consumes an estimated 8 million tons of oil a year, while its own production amounts to 1.7 million.
Semashko said they also agreed to increase transit tariffs every year based on an agreed-on formula, and the fee could rise 11% this year.
GORKI (Moscow Region), January 27 (RIA Novosti)