By Gleb Gorodyankin
MOSCOW, April 8 (Reuters) - Belarus will import its first ever cargo of crude oil from Venezuela in late April or early May in a move that Minsk hopes will help it cut heavy dependence on supplies from Russia, sources told Reuters on Thursday.
Trading and industry sources said an 80,000-tonne crude vessel was heading from Venezuela to Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odessa for further railway delivery to Belarus' Mozyr refinery.
The cargo left Venezuela on April 2 and it will take it some 20-30 days to arrive to Odessa, sources said.
Relations between Russia and Belarus soured over the New Year after Moscow drastically cut supplies of cheap crude to Belarus saying Minsk must pay full export duties on crude it refines for further re-exports of refined products.
Moscow's long-time ally, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, slammed the move and travelled to Venezuela in March in a bid to secure supplies amid shortage of cheap material for Belarussian refineries.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez promised that South America's top oil exporter will supply Belarus with 80,000 barrels of per day from in May. [ID:nN15224348]
Russian oil supplies to Belarusian refineries fell by 42 percent in January-March, year-on-year, as the country's refiners could not afford paying full export duties. [ID:nLDE6340E2]
Industry observes carefully watch disputes between Russia and Belarus as they threaten to disrupt Russian flows along the one-million-bpd Druzhba pipeline to European Union members Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. [ID:nLDE60Q27P]. (Reporting by Gleb Gorodyankin, additional reporting by Andrey Makhovsky in Minsk)