Belarus hikes transit rates for Russian oil by 30 per cent

Belarus on Thursday increased the cost of transporting Russian crude oil via its pipeline system to European Union nations by 30 per cent.

The hike follows weeks of tit-for-tat trade restrictions initiated by Minsk and Moscow in the wake of the Kremlin's doubling of the price of energy sold to Belarus for 2007.

The Belarusian price change upped the fee charged to the Moscow-headquartered energy company Transneft and other Russian oil exporters to deliver product to European customers via Belarus' section of the Druzhba pipeline.

Some 30 per cent of Russian crude oil exports currently arrive in Europe via this route, according to a statement by Belarus' economics ministry.

Oil purchasers in Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic will be most affected by the change due to their reliance on the Druzhba line and lack of alternate sources of crude oil, according to industry experts.

The hike will increase income to the Belarusian government by around 50 million dollars annually, Alekdei Kostiuchenko, a government pipeline official, told the Belapan news agency.

Russia last year sent about 80 million tons of oil to Europe via the Druzhba system. Disputes with Belarus over transit fee pricing have led Russian officials to plan an oil pipeline to Europe via the Baltic Sea that will bypass Belarus.

Since the Russian energy price hike Russia and Belarus have hit each other with trade and travel restrictions including bars on automobiles, tightened visa requirements, new customs laws, and outright bans on some products. dpa tsc sbk bve ds