Russia agrees to increase oil flows to Belarus in 2014 by 10 pct

MOSCOW, April 18 Fri Apr 18, 2014 9:45am EDT

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MOSCOW, April 18 (Reuters) - Russia has agreed to ship 23 million tonnes of crude oil to Belarus this year, more than in 2013, a spokeswoman for Russia's Energy Ministry said on Friday, in a sign of thawing relations between the two countries.

The increase in supplies to Belarus is likely to put upward pressure on prices of Russia's Urals crude blend.

Last year, Russia supplied 21 million tonnes of crude to Belarus and threatened to cut supplies after the two became embroiled in a dispute over potash.

The spokeswoman for Russia's Energy Ministry said Russia would supply 21 million tonnes of oil (420,000 barrels per day) to Belarus via a pipeline and 2 million tonnes via railroad this year.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has not openly supported Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine, but he has said that the annexed Crimea peninsula is "de-facto Russian territory".

Earlier on Thursday, Lukashenko signalled to Russian potash producer Uralkali that he was interested in ending a nine-month dispute that has hurt both sides. (Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jane Baird)

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