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Belarus will not link oil pollution incident to Russia’s tax maneuver, president says

Alexander Lukashenko noted that Russia had to take the polluted oil back or Belarus "will find a way to use it"
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Maxim Guchek/BelTA/TASS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
© Maxim Guchek/BelTA/TASS

MINSK, May 11. /TASS/. Minsk has no intention to take advantage of oil pollution incident and link it to the situation surrounding Russia’s tax maneuver, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said.

"It has nothing to do with the tax maneuver," he said, as cited by the BelTA news agency. "An incident occurred. Was it done deliberately and on purpose? Let them [Russians] sort things out for themselves. I am told that our oil refineries are getting clean oil, a portion of the polluted oil was pumped into our storage facilities," Lukashenko added.

He noted that Russia had to take the polluted oil back or Belarus "will find a way to use it." "The story is coming to an end for Belarus but it continues for Europe," the Belarusian president said.

According to Lukashenko, he discussed the oil pollution incident with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their meeting in Beijing.

"He called the government to account and ordered law enforcement agencies to sort the situation out. He even engaged the FSB, which rarely happens. And I must say that [FSB Director Alexander] Bortnikov and his colleagues very quickly identified those responsible for the incident," the Belarusian leader concluded.

Oil pollution incident

On April 19, the Belarusian petrochemical company Belneftekhim reported a sharp deterioration in the quality of the Russian oil running through the Druzhba pipeline. Both Belarusian refineries - the Mozyr refinery (Gomel region) and Naftan (Vitebsk region) - reported the risk of equipment facing damage and almost halved the refining volumes. On April 23, Belarus was forced to halt exports of light oil products to Ukraine, Poland and Baltic countries due to deliveries of poor quality oil.

Poland, Germany, Ukraine and Slovakia suspended crude oil supplies from Russia through the Druzhba oil pipeline. The pollutant was revealed at the Samara-Unecha section. Russia’s Energy Ministry referred to technical issues as the reason for the contamination of the oil. On April 29, Russian oil meeting the technical regulations reached the Unecha delivery station of the Druzhba pipeline near the Belarusian border.

Tax maneuver

Russia’s tax maneuver in the oil sector implies a reduction of crude export duties and a rise in the mineral extraction tax. The move is aimed at reducing the dependence of Russia’s budget on export duties.

On December 24, 2018, the Belarusian president that Moscow had rejected all suggestions Minsk had made concerning ways to offset Minsk’s financial losses for the tax maneuver would take oil prices for Belarusian oil refineries higher. Russian government sources, in turn, said there had never been an agreement saying that Moscow would offset Belarus’ losses.