MINSK (Reuters) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday that the country seeks to cut Russian oil supplies to 30-40% of domestic market needs, Belta news agency reported, piling pressure on Moscow in its dispute over new supply terms.
The two ex-Soviet republics failed to agree on pricing for the Russian oil for 2020 as the Kremlin seeks to cement its influence over Belarus, seen as a buffer zone between the West and Moscow.
Russia suspended oil supplies to refineries in Belarus from Jan. 1, though it partially restored them on Jan. 4.
The transit of Russian oil to Europe via Belarus has so far has remained intact. Europe receives around 10% of its oil via the route.
Lukashenko has complained that Russian oil prices were too high and that Belarus would search for other sources of supplies. Russian oil deliveries to Belarus slipped last year to 17.6 million tonnes from 18 million tonnes in 2018 through the Druzhba pipeline.
On Monday, Belarus state company Belneftekhim said that its subsidiary, BNK, will import crude from Norway’s Johan Sverdrup field via Lithuania’s Klaipeda port this month because of the supply row with Russia.
Lukashenko said that Belarus wants to import 30% of oil from the Baltic ports and the same amount from Ukraine.
Last week, Kazakhstan Energy Minister Nurlan Nogayev said that Kazakhstan and Belarus would discuss an oil supply deal. Belarus sent proposals to Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Baltic states to buy oil from them.
Lukashenko said on Tuesday that Russia has not agreed on oil transit to Belarus from Kazakhstan and that Belarus was not able to immediately replace Russian oil imports amid a row over prices and compensation for contaminated oil.
A source in the Ukrainian port of Odessa said that the outlet has been in talks with Belarus about supplies though no concert deal has been achieved.
Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; additional reportin by Gleb Gorodyankin in Moscow; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Louise Heavens