Russia may supply oil to Belarus without a deal

MINSK, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Russia is unlikely to stop crude deliveries to Belarus in 2010, even if a deal on supplies is not reached quickly, Alexander Surikov, the Russian ambassador to Belarus said on Wednesday.

The current deal expires on Dec. 31, 2009. Pricing rows between Russia and Belarus led to a temporary stoppage of oil supplies to Europe in early 2007 through Druzhba pipeline and a new standoff appeared possible when both sides failed to agree on volumes of duty-free Russian oil.

Belarus typically buys about 21.5 million tonnes of oil from Russia every year. A further 60 million tonnes of Russian oil is exported through Belarus annually.

"The accord could be signed even in February... A protocol should be signed and the supplies will continue," Surikov told reporters.

Last week, powerful Russian deputy prime minister Igor Sechin said Russia had been suffering from selling cheap oil to Belarus and proposed that in 2010 Minsk will secure around 6 million tonnes of duty-free oil for domestic needs.

The rest, he said, will attract "100 percent of custom fees".

Meanwhile, Belarus was expecting to get up to 9 million tonnes of duty-free Russian oil.

Surikov didn't specify the volumes of such oil, but added that "the rest will be supplied under stock exchange prices including custom fees."

(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky, writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Keiron Henderson)


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