Russia oil to Belarus may resume by Tuesday

By Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Russia is likely to resume oil deliveries to Belarus by Tuesday, but has alternate supply routes available in case the dispute continues, the head of Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft said on Thursday.

"I think that by the end of the week the talks will be completed, prices agreed, and by Monday or Tuesday oil shipments to Belarus will take place," Nikolai Tokarev told reporters.

Separately, Russia's Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters on Thursday that Russia could resume oil supplies to its ex-Soviet neighbour and customs union partner within a week.

Russian oil flows to Belarus refineries, which have a daily capacity of 360,000 barrels, have been halted since Jan 1 while price talks continue with Russian oil companies, but oil flows to Europe remain unimpeded.

Tokarev said that in the event Russian producers and Belarus are unable to strike a compromise, Moscow has considered other back up options for its Belarus crude shipments, including via ports Primorsk and Novorossiisk and the Polish port of Gdansk.

With both sides now in a customs union together with Kazakhstan, Belarus, of Jan 1, no longer has to pay Russia's oil export tariff, but traders say Russian companies have halted supplies in attempt to get Belarus to pay a higher oil prices.

Rows over prices and transit tariffs between Moscow and its neighbours, Belarus and Ukraine, have led to Russian oil and gas supply stoppages to Europe in the past.

Around 40 million tonnes (about 800,000 barrels per day) of Russian oil is pumped annually to Europe via Belarus.

Low gas and oil prices from Moscow are crucial for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's efforts to keep the ailing economy afloat.

(Reporting by Volodya Soldatkin; Writing by Jessica Bachman)


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