Belarusian Leader Warns Russia Over Energy Dispute
By RFE/RL January 10, 2019
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has warned Russia that it could lose its ally if Moscow fails to offer Minsk compensation for higher oil prices.
"If the leadership of Russia chooses such a path and the loss of its only ally in the Western direction, it's their choice," Belarus's state news agency BelTA quoted Lukashenka as saying on January 10, amid an energy dispute that has marred close ties between the two neighbors.
Belarus has long benefited from buying subsidized oil products from Russia and reexporting them, but Russia now plans to charge higher prices for crude to lessen the burden on its economy.
Belarus estimates that Moscow's plan will cost Minsk $11 billion in lost revenues over the next six years and has called on Russia to offer compensation.
Lukashenka on January 10 threatened to route Belarus's trade in oil and oil products exclusively through the Baltic states.
He proposed the option of purchasing oil jointly with Baltic countries, refining it at the Novopolotsk refinery in Belarus, and exporting the products.
The Belarusian leader also sought to dispel media speculations that Moscow wants to use the issue to try to push Minsk into agreeing to integrate into Russia.
"There is no question of uniting the two states," he said.
Russia and Belarus have signed a union agreement that envisaged close economic, political, and military ties.
Lukashenka met twice with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of 2018, but the meetings failed to resolve the energy dispute.
A previous dispute with Russia in 2010 prompted Belarus to import Venezuelan oil via ports in Ukraine.
Lukashenka has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of some 10 million with an iron fist for nearly a quarter-century, while running the economy largely along Soviet lines.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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