World News

FACTBOX: Russian oil and gas as political weapon?

(Reuters) - Russia said it had halted deliveries of oil products through Estonian ports on Wednesday amid a political row with the Baltic state over its relocation of a Soviet World War Two monument.

Russian state railways denied political motives, saying it had to carry out planned maintenance on the rail link with Estonia. But Western countries have accused Moscow in the past of using its oil and gas reserves as a political weapon against its ex-Soviet neighbors.

Following is a list of political crises in which Russian oil and gas played a role:

LATVIA, 2003 - Russia stopped oil flows to Latvia’s Ventspils terminal citing a lack of pipeline capacity. At the time, Moscow and Riga were locked in a row over Russian allegations Latvia was mistreating its ethnic Russian minority.

UKRAINE, 2005 - In the first three days of January, Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom halted supplies to Ukraine after the ex-Soviet state rejected a four-fold price rise. The crisis led to brief disruptions in supplies to European clients.

The crisis came soon after pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko came to power promising to end his country’s traditional reliance on Moscow in favor of closer relations with the European Union and NATO.

GEORGIA, 2006 - During a dispute sparked by the brief detention in Georgia of Russian officers charged with spying, Gazprom demanded Georgia pay $230 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas in 2007, up from $110 in 2006.

The gas price row was accompanied by an embargo on trade and communication links with Georgia. Tbilisi’s pro-Western government, which is seeking membership of NATO and the EU, said the price increase was politically-motivated.

BELARUS, 2006 - Gazprom threatened to cut off gas supplies to Belarus unless it agreed to pay over $200 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007, up from $46 in 2006.

The price row was widely seen as a lever for Gazprom to pressure Belarus, one of Moscow’s staunchest supporters, into giving up control over its lucrative pipeline network. The crisis has badly damaged bilateral relations.

A last-minute compromise was reached under which Belarus pays $100 per 1,000 cubic meters.

LITHUANIA, 2006 - Russia cut oil supplies to Lithuania citing a pipeline leak. The move coincided with the sale of a key refiner in the country to a Polish firm, in preference to a Kremlin-backed bidder. The pipeline is still not working.

BELARUS, 2007 - In January Russia accused Belarus of siphoning off oil and briefly halted the flow of crude through a key export pipeline Druzhba, cutting supplies to Poland, Germany and several central European countries.