11 May 2019 14:41

Belarus does not link 'contaminated' oil reimbursement to Russian tax maneuver - Lukashenko

MINSK. May 11 (Interfax) - Belarus has no intention to speculate on the supply of contaminated oil from Russia and to link reimbursement to the Russian tax maneuver, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said.

"This has nothing to do with the tax maneuver. A misfortune has happened. Was it intentional? Let them [Russia] look into it," the state-run news agency BelTA quoted Lukashenko as saying during his visit to the Students' Village in Minsk on Saturday.

"As I have been told, our refineries are receiving clean oil. We have pumped some of the contaminated oil into our storages. Either it will be sent back to Russia or we will find another way of using it," Lukashenko said.

"As I understand, the story is about to end for Belarus, but it still continues for Europe," he said.

Belneftekhim reported the supply of inferior oil from Russia in the evening of April 19. Gomeltransneft Druzhba suspended the transit of "contaminated" Russian oil to Europe on April 24 after the Druzhba pipeline's Polish sector operator PERN said that refineries in Poland and Germany could not accept and process such oil.

Both Belarusian refineries - JSC Mozyr Oil Refinery in the Gomel region and JSC Naftan in the Vitebsk region - reported the risk of damage to equipment and cut the oil refining amounts almost 50%. They also had to suspend exports of light petroleum products to Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic republics.

The Russian Energy Ministry confirmed that Russian oil was contaminated with dichloroethane, a toxic substance used as a grease and paraffin solvent which has strong corrosive properties. According to Transneft, the oil was intentionally contaminated in the Samara-Unecha section. The Russian Energy Ministry set up an investigative commission.

The supply of quality Russian oil through the Druzhba pipeline to Belarus began in the afternoon of May 2 after Belarus fully stopped the transportation of contaminated oil on April 30.

Belneftekhim reported on May 4 that "clean" Russian oil reached the Mozyr station of JSC Gomeltransneft Druzhba. The Mozyr Oil Refinery was due to start refining the oil on May 6. The refining was not reported as of May 10.

According to Belneftekhim, over 1 million tonnes of inferior oil had amassed in the republic's territory. The total amount of inferior oil in pipelines in the territories of Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine was estimated at 5 million tonnes.

Belarus has been importing Russian oil on new terms and paying a higher price due to the Russian tax maneuver since the beginning of 2019. As a result of the tax maneuver, the price of oil imported by Belarus duty-free will be growing each year proportionately to the decrease of Russia's oil export duty. Belarus has estimated extra costs at approximately $10.5 billion in 2019-2024, including about $400 million in 2019.

Belarus invited Russia to talks on possible compensation of the costs, but the Russian government said it would be inexpedient to reimburse Belarus for a change of the Russian domestic tax policy.