* Venezuela agrees to supply Belarus 30mln tonnes of crude
* Deal worth $19.4 billion at current prices
* Belarus has reduced Russian oil imports
* Wants greater volume of Venezuelan crude via Odessa
(Adds comments from Chavez, background)
By Andrei Makhovsky
MINSK, Oct 16 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
agreed on Saturday to supply the former Soviet republic of
Belarus with 30 million tonnes of oil over three years from 2011
in a deal worth as much as $19.4 billion.
Belarus has slashed imports of Russian Urals blend oil and
increased purchases from Venezuela since Moscow imposed export
duties, a step that raised the price of Russian exports to
Belarus by about 36 percent.
"Belarussian refineries will have no shortages for the next
200 years," Chavez said after over seven hours of talks with his
Belarussian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk.
"We are proud of the fact that our vessels can supply our
oil to Belarus," Chavez added after officials from the
Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and the Belarussian Oil
Company signed the accord.
Neither side disclosed the price tag for the deal. But state
statistics show Belarus is currently buying Venezuelan crude for
$647 per tonne, pricing 30 million tonnes at about $19.4
billion, according to Reuters calculations.
That is a major boon for Belarus, whose gross domestic
product is just $55 billion.
"I thank you not only for the oil but for the colossal help
which you have given to the Belarussian people," Lukashenko told
Chavez. "At this difficult time, you have given Belarus your
shoulder to lean on."
Lukashenko visited Venezuela in March in an effort to secure
energy supplies after Russia, the country's main supplier,
drastically cut the flow of cheap crude to its ex-Soviet
neighbour. Lukashenko has repeatedly attacked Moscow for cutting
the energy subsidies.
Relations between the two former allies deteriorated further
after Minsk gave refuge to a former Kyrgyz leader criticised by
Moscow and threatened to cut Russian oil and gas transit to
Europe in a gas pricing dispute in June.
Still, Belarussian statistics show that Russian Urals blend
itself is cheaper -- at $419 per tonne at the end of August --
than Venezuela's Santa Barbara crude.
Russia agreed on Friday to help build Venezuela's first
nuclear power plant, sell it tanks and buy $1.6 billion of oil
assets, reinforcing ties with Chavez, who shares Moscow's
opposition to U.S. global dominance. [ID:nLDE69E22G]
Belarus's Mozyr refinery currently receives Venezuelan
imports by rail from ports on the Baltic and Black seas.
But Belarus has plans to reverse a part of the Europe-bound
Druzhba pipeline to allow greater volumes of Venezuelan crude to
reach Belarus from Odessa.
Belarus refines the crude from Russia and Venezuela and then
sells the products on to European Union customers.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky, writing by Guy Faulconbridge;
editing by Mark Heinrich)