Belarus Hikes Oil Transit Fees

The Associated Press

MINSK -- Belarus on Thursday hiked transit fees on Russian oil headed to Europe by more than 30 percent to help compensate for losses caused by price rises for Russian energy imports.

The higher transit fees for Russian oil -- 35 percent for oil headed toward Poland and Germany, 32 percent for oil bound for Ukraine -- should net the Belarussian government roughly $50 million per year, the Energy Ministry said in a statement. The increases are the first in 11 years, it said.

"This is a necessary measure," said Alexei Kostyuchenko, director of state-controlled company GomelTransneft-Druzhba, which controls Belarussian pipelines.

There was no immediate comment in Moscow, but Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said earlier this month that Belarus could not raise the transit price without Russia's assent. Between 70 million and 90 million tons of Russian oil flows through Belarussian pipelines every year en route to European markets. Russia last month sharply increased the prices Belarus pays for natural gas.

It also levied a new duty on Russian oil exported to Belarus, amid accusations that Minsk was garnering billions in revenues by refining Russian oil and selling higher-value products to Europe.

Minsk disputed the accusations and European oil shipments were disrupted for several days, sparking alarm in many European capitals about Russia's dependability as an energy supplier.