Russia clashes over energy with Belarus, Ukraine, EU

Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:44pm EST
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By Andrei Makhovsky and Vladimir Soldatkin

MINSK/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia plunged back into the disputes over energy with Ukraine and Belarus that have repeatedly disrupted oil and gas supplies to European Union countries, and it also termed EU energy policy as "uncivilized".

Russia on Friday denied remarks by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko that it had agreed to increase its crude oil supplies to Minsk, vital for the Belarus economy, and said that it still intended to cut them next year.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Ukraine for failing to agree on a deal, in return for cheaper gas, under which it would lease its pipeline network to Moscow and the European Union.

Russia, the world's top energy producer, supplies over a quarter of Europe's gas and oil needs. Ukraine ships around two thirds of Europe's imports of Siberian gas through pipelines across its territory, while Belarus is mainly responsible for oil deliveries

Clashes over energy pricing and pipeline transit with Ukraine and Belarus have led over the past decade to cuts or halts in Russian oil and gas supplies to Central and Western Europe. These have most often happened over the New Year, when Russia failed to agree on energy supply terms with the two countries.

The European Union has accused the Kremlin of using its energy might as a political tool, while Moscow has argued it wants its neighbors to pay fair prices promptly for energy.

On Friday, Belarussian state news agency BelTA quoted Lukashenko as saying Russia had agreed to increase oil supplies next year to 23 million tonnes (460,000 barrels per day) from 21.5 million this year.

"We have really agreed on the supply ... We will get the oil without any issues," he said.   Continued...

Pipes are seen at a gas compressor station in the village of Boyarka, outside Kiev, December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Anatolii Stepanov