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    Belarus introduces rent for using power lines, gas, oil pipes

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    The president of Belarus, a transit nation for Europe-bound Russian hydrocarbons, signed a decree to charge rent on forestland under power lines, and gas and oil pipelines.

    MINSK, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - The president of Belarus, a transit nation for Europe-bound Russian hydrocarbons, signed a decree to charge rent on forestland under power lines, and gas and oil pipelines.

    The move echoes a gas price row when Moscow doubled the gas price for Belarus and imposed an oil export duty. Minsk retaliated by introducing a transit fee on Russian crude going to Europe. The dispute culminated in Russia suspending oil exports to Europe.

    The press service of President Alexander Lukashenko said that government-controlled forestlands would be first transferred to operators of power lines and pipelines by August 1.

    Belarus, formerly Russia's closest post-Soviet ally, expects to earn $50 million from newly introduced rents on the land under Russian-operated oil and gas pipelines.

    Russian natural gas giant, Gazprom [RTS: GAZP], transports gas to Europe via the Belarusian section of the Gazprom-controlled Yamal-Europe pipeline, with a capacity of 24.8 billion cubic meters a year, and also through gas pipelines owned by Beltransgaz, the Belarusian pipeline monopoly, with a capacity of 51 billion cubic meters.

    Russian crude is pumped to Germany, Poland and Ukraine through the Druzhba pipeline, with a capacity of 81 million metric tons a year, including the Belarusian section Unecha-Mozyr. Russia's Transneft [RTS: TRNF] pipeline monopoly operates the Druzhba pipeline.

    Russia's energy spats with Belarus and Ukraine have undermined its reputation as a reliable energy supplier and drawn accusations of using energy as a political lever.

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