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Lukashenka Says Russia Blocking Kazakhstan From Delivering Oil To Belarus

Moscow has been pressuring President Lukashenka to deepen integration between the two neighbors.
Moscow has been pressuring President Lukashenka to deepen integration between the two neighbors.

MINSK -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says Russia is blocking deliveries of Kazakh oil amid a tariff dispute with Moscow, Minsk's regular supplier.

Lukashenka said on January 21 at a meeting with oil experts in Minsk that the situation Belarus's economy is facing "is getting complex."

"It is strange, our ally does not agree to deliver oil to us from our other ally. That is an odd situation in the oil-delivery sector and we must take care of it," Lukashenka said.

All three countries are founding members of the Eurasian Economic Union, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to use to bolster Moscow's influence in the former Soviet Union and counter the EU and NATO.

"Because of the Russian Federation's introduction of the tax tariff maneuver [on oil, Belarus's] state budget gains are constantly dropping and the efficiency of our refineries' operations are worsening. There are no full alternatives to Russian oil and we have to diversify the sector," Lukashenka said, adding that the volume of Russian oil in the Belarusian market must be between 30 and 40 percent.

Belarus has been at odds with Russia over oil-transit prices for some time against a backdrop of increasing pressure by Moscow on Lukashenka to deepen integration between the two neighbors.

Belarus is heavily reliant on Russia for fuel and funding and is a key transit route for Russian energy supplies to Europe.

On January 14, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Dzmitry Krutoy said Minsk had asked several European countries, as well as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, to sell Belarus oil amid the tariff tug-of-war with Russia.

Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement in 1999 to form a unified state, but little progress has been made in the ensuing two decades.

Meetings between Putin and Lukashenka last year failed to bring the two sides together as the Belarusian president noted he was merely seeking "equal" terms.

Belarusian protests in December targeted the perceived secrecy of the talks and objected to closer ties to Russia.

With reporting by BelTA

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