Trading Russian oil? Learn more about potash

Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:48am EDT
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* Traders watch Russia-Belarus potash spat for oil market clues

* Oil supply threats to Belarus slow to materialise

* Sechin leaves door open to potash giant nationalisation

By Dmitry Zhdannikov and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Kremlinology, or understanding Moscow politics, has long been crucial for traders of Russia's oil.

But rarely have the signals from the Russian capital been trickier to read than in the ongoing diplomatic spat with Belarus over another commodity, potash.

When Russia and its former Soviet neighbour first locked horns in August over the collapse of a joint Russian-Belarusian potash production cartel, the prognosis for Russian crude supplies looked straightforward.

Russia had been expected to retaliate by cutting oil supplies to Belarus, a traditional move in rows between Moscow and Minsk that would also hit refineries in Poland and Germany by emptying Belarusian transit pipelines.

Russia's pipeline monopoly, run by Nikolai Tokarev, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, did not surprise by ordering a swift curtailment in flows.   Continued...