Belarus to increase Russian transit fees

Belarus is set to increase the transit fees it charges Russia for pumping oil across its territory by more than 30 per cent.

Pipeline operator Gomeltransneft Druzhba is set to increase tariffs by 35 per cent to $3.50 (?1.78) per metric tonne of oil along the Unecha-Adamova Zastava route and by 31.6 per cent to $1.50 (?0.76) for transit along the Unecha-Brody route. The new tariff is set to take effect from February 15th.

A price spat last month saw Russia briefly stop oil flows to Europe through the 1,300 mile-Druzhba pipeline, which provides oil to Germany, Poland and Ukraine, because it alleged that Belarus was illegally tapping oil.

Long-term efforts to bypass Belarus are already underway. Transneft president Semyon Vainshtok said a plan for a pipeline to pump oil from a site near the Belarusian border to the Baltic Sea coast in the Leningrad region outside St Petersburg had been approved.

He told the Interfax news agency that the $2.5 billion (?1.27 billion) pipeline would be capable of handling 50 million tonnes of oil a year.

Meanwhile Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday said the EU should "discipline" transit states that disrupted energy supplies from Russia to the 27-nation trading bloc.

Mr Lavrov made the comments after meeting with German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Russia pumped 78.7 million metric tonnes of oil through Belarus last year.End of story