Russian state pipeline operator, Transneft, has cut supplies on the Druzhba pipeline
world's longest pipeline feeds several former Soviet Republics as well as European countries. The shutdown is the result of an ongoing dispute
between Russia and Belarus over the price of oil and gas and transit taxes. Poland and Germany both maintain strategic reserves and are not in
immediate danger of shortages but are seeking explanations from the two fighting countries.
Minsk says Russia has not been paying a transit tax for moving oil through Belarus, imposed after Russia doubled the price it charges Belarus for gas
Exports were halted after Belarus began legal action against Russia for failure to pay the new oil shipment tax.
Transneft later said it had been forced to cut off supplies through the Druzhba pipeline after Belarus began siphoning off oil as payment in kind for
The Russian firm has so far refused to pay the oil export taxes as it claims the charges are illegal.
Separately, Azerbaijan has suspended oil exports to Russia following a pricing dispute with Russian state-backed oil giant Gazprom.
BBC economics correspondent Andrew Walker says the suspension is an uncomfortable reminder to Europe of the large and growing role that Russia has in
meeting its energy needs.
"This shows us once again that arguments among various countries of the former Soviet Union, between suppliers and transit countries, mean that these
deliveries are unreliable,"
The European Union is set to discuss energy supply issues as part of a meeting on climate change and energy policy scheduled for Wednesday.
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Price and transit taxes asside, what strikes me is the timing of this move by Russia, just two days before new talks on energy issues with Europe.
The EU has been trying to get Russia to sign onto an Energy Charter Treaty for several years but Russia is holding out.
Putin firm on EU energy charter
The aim is to make it easier for European companies to invest in the Russian energy sector, and to use Russian pipelines to export the oil and gas
The pact would also be designed to ensure that Russia treated all European countries equally, and to lay the basis for a long-term trade partnership.
Russia supplies a quarter of the oil and gas consumed in the EU, and the proportion is set to rise sharply in coming decades.
The talks are set to begin on Wednesday and this action (again, tax issues asside) serves as a timely reminder of Europe's dependence on Russian
Poland and Germany have up to 80 days of reserves but no word on the other countries affected: Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
[edit on 1/8/2007 by Gools]