Europe's "Last Dictator" Throws Down the Pipeline Gauntlet

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Europe's "Last Dictator" Throws Down the Pipeline Gauntlet

Fri, 11/27/2020 - 11:48
Bridge with pipelines (copyright by Shutterstock/tcly)
Bridge with pipelines (copyright by Shutterstock/tcly)

Amid sizable and protracted street demonstrations calling for the head of Alexandr Lukashenko, Bylorussia's leader, the last thing Lukaschenko needs is to provoke a spat over increased Druzhba pipeline tariffs with the giant Russian bear to his east.  Yet this is exactly what he seems to be doing with a reported not insignificant raise of 25 percent.

In the recent past Russian-Bylorussian disputes over tariffs have disrupted the flow of oil to Europe.

The sources told Reuters that Belarus state energy company Belneftekhim had notified Russian pipeline operator Transneft that it wanted to increase the transit tariff via the Druzhba pipeline for Russian suppliers by almost 25% from Jan. 1, 2021, much higher than envisaged by Moscow.

Moscow has stood by what former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labelled  “Europe’s last dictatorship” in 2005 and since then it has become a cliche perpetuated by international politicians and media, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to a $1.5 billion loan to provide much-needed support in a country worsened by the pandemic.

The oil talks have also been bogged down by other unresolved issues between the countries, including natural gas sales as well as compensation for Russian-contaminated oil supplies.

Belneftekhim, Transneft and the Russian energy ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

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