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Belarus will pay high price for Russian businessman arrest

August 29, 2013, 11:12 UTC+3

On Wednesday, Russian chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko voiced claims to Belarusian milk

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First economic threats have emerged in the relations between Russia and Belarus, the Kommersant daily reported. They are linked with a scandalous arrest of Director-General of the Russian company Uralkali Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk, the daily noted. Both economic threats concern the vital markets - oil and food markets.

On Wednesday, Russian chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko voiced claims to Belarusian milk, the company Transneft has cut the oil supplies to local oil refineries.

The day before Onishchenko spoke about the claims, which the Russian consumer rights watchdog has made to the quality of Belarusian dairy products. In his words, 240 samples were examined in Moscow Region alone, 72 of which did not meet the standards of quality and safety, the Kommersant daily reported.

Onishchenko stated that his claims are not related to the conflict, which had emerged between Russia and Belarus after the detention of Uralkali Director-General Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk on Monday. The chief of the Russian consumer rights watchdog explained that he had voiced indignation over the quality of dairy products back a month ago, but as there was no Uralkali case then, only several media outlets paid attention to this statement, the daily reported.

According to the reports of the Russian national union of milk producers Soyuzmoloko, overall imports of dairy products in Russia reached nine million tons in 2012, 46.7% percent of which fell on Belarus. The main articles of Belarusian exports are dry and concentrated milk, cream, butter and cheese, the Kommersant daily said.

Most participants of the market and experts took Gennady Onishchenko’s statement as political, the Kommersant daily noted. “As ‘the milk war’ between Moscow and Minsk in 2009 showed, milk is one of major articles of Belarusian agricultural exports,” the newspaper quoted a raw material trader as saying. The Belarusian Agriculture Ministry reported that about 70% of export sales of agrarian produce in the country fall on meat and dairy products delivered to Russia. This year Belarus planed to earn 4.3 billion dollars on them.

“Still, Onishchenko’s statement can be considered as a warning,” the exporters of Belarusian goods believe. But they noted that the claims to Belarusian milk affect the interests of business tycoon Alexander Moshensky, who is a very close associate of President Alexander Lukashenko and who is called ‘a purse of the president’.

The traders believe that the countries in Latin America and Europe are ready to replace Belarusian supplies.

Meanwhile, Transneft engaged in the game several hours after Gennady Onishchenko, the Kommersant daily noted. The company stated about the cuts of oil supplies in Belarus by 400,000 tons in September that makes 20% of monthly oil supplies. Transneft reduces the oil supplies in Belarus not for the first time, as in 2006 the pipeline monopoly has taken similar measures during the intergovernmental conflict, which concerns the introduction of mutual customs duties.

On Wednesday, Transneft stated officially about the need for urgent, extraordinary repairing works at the oil pipeline Druzhba, because “the pipe is in the order next to emergency.” The Belarusian Belneftekhim company stated that it did not receive any notifications from Russia.

The Belarusian presidential press service did not comment on the Russian actions, the Vedomosti daily noted. The Kremlin is following attentively the development of the current situation, but did not give any comments yet, Russian President’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

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