MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Russian oil firms controlled by the family of tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev plan to increase oil supplies to Belarus to a total of 750,000 tonnes this month, amid a wider energy spat between Moscow and Minsk, three oil industry sources told Reuters.
The supply of oil from Russia to Belarus was abruptly halted on Jan. 1 with companies including Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil and Surgutnefgetaz suspending deliveries as Moscow and Minsk argued over contract terms.
The Gutseriyev family’s oil firms Russneft and Neftisa restored supplies to Belarus late on Jan. 4, the only companies to do so, while others continue to try and reach an agreement on new supply terms with state-run Belneftekhim, which controls Belarus’ two refineries.
The three sources, who are familiar with the oil supply schedule, said the Russian Energy Ministry, which oversees the oil export quotas, has granted the companies permission to export 650,000 tonnes via Transneft’s (TRNF_p.MM) oil pipeline system and 100,000 tonnes by rail in the January-March period.
The amount is around half of the roughly 1.5 million tonnes of Russian oil Belarus consumes per month, with the sources saying Russneft and Neftisa were stepping in to maintain minimum levels of oil refining in the country, Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbor with which Moscow is seeking deeper political and economic integration.
The sources added that Russneft and Neftisa planned to deliver all 750,00 tonnes this month, noting that the amount includes the 130,000 tonnes Russneft had already agreed earlier this month to supply to Belarus.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, with whom Gutseriyev has traditionally had strong ties, said on Thursday that Moscow and Minsk had failed to reach a deal as Russia had asked for an oil price higher than the global average.
It was not clear at what price and under what conditions Russneft and Neftisa were supplying the oil to Belarus.
Spats between Moscow and Minsk have in the past led to the disruption of supplies to Europe, which gets 10% of its oil from Russia via Belarus’ Druzhba pipeline transit link. Transit along the pipeline has continued uninterrupted so far this year.
Russneft and Neftisa would need to redirect oil flows from the domestic market and their exports to other destinations in order to ship additional volumes to Belarus, the sources said.
Russneft and Neftisa are part of a wider Safmar group of companies controlled by the Gutseriyev family, which also includes three mid-sized oil refineries in Russia and a wide range of other assets from retail to real estate.
Russneft and Neftisa did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for a comment, neither did the Russian Energy Ministry and Transneft.
Reporting by Ludmila Zaramenskikh, Olga Yagova and Gleb Gorodyankin; Additional reporting by Andrei Makhovsky in MINSK; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Kirsten Donovan