Belarus raises transit tariff for Russian oil

MINSK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Belarus will raise its tariff for Russian oil transit to Europe by 12.5 percent from Feb. 1, the Belarus Economy Ministry said on Monday.

The decision was taken "due to changes in the economic conditions of oil deliveries from Russia," the Economy Ministry said in a statement.

Rows over prices and transit tariffs between Moscow and its neighbours Belarus and Ukraine have led to Russian oil and gas supply stoppages to Europe in the past.

But Leonid Zaiko, head of research at the Strategy think tank in Minsk, said this increase was probably a technical move to compensate for a rise in the price of oil in recent weeks.

"It is rather technical issue, which is unlikely to lead to increased tension in relations with Russia," Zaiko said.

Russia's oil pipeline monopoly Transneft was not immediately available for comment on Monday, a public holiday in Russia.

Relations between Russia and Belarus have been strained in recent months and analysts have said the re-election last month of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko could lead to a more assertive stance from Minsk.

The Economy Ministry did not give a dollar amount for the new tariff. Russia currently pays $1.64 to transport one tonne of oil 100 km.

Around 40 million tonnes (about 800,000 barrels per day) of Russian oil is pumped annually to Europe via Belarus.

Low gas and oil prices from Moscow are crucial for Lukashenko's efforts to keep the Belarus economy afloat.

Minsk and Moscow in December agreed on oil supplies after creating a free-trade zone between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The agreement set out terms for the transit of Russian oil across Belarus, but did not deal with the thorny issue of gas sales to Belarus, which enjoys the cheapest gas of any ex-Soviet state. [ID:nLDE6B81I2]

A dispute with Minsk over transit tariffs and gas payments triggered a four-day standoff between Russia and Belarus and resulted in a cut in gas supplies to Poland and Lithuania in summer 2010. [ID:nLDE6611DS]

Minsk has asked Russia not increase gas prices for 2011 to $210-$220 per 1,000 cubic metres, as Moscow has indicated. Belarus currently pays just over $190 per 1,000 cubic metres compared to $308 for Europe on average. (Reporting by Andrey Makhovsky; writing by Pavel Polityuk and Conor Humphries; editing by Anthony Barker)


Partners: Social Network