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Druzhba oil pipeline repair a political move - experts
This game doesn't seem to have an ending.
On January 14-17, Belarusian oil workers were repairing the Druzhba pipeline. The works affected the 17th and 30th kilometers of the main oil pipeline Mazyr -- Brest-3. One of the sections revealed "numerous defects," the operator of the Belarusian section of the pipeline Gomeltransneft Druzhba reports.
Last year, experts surveyed all 1,300 kilometers of Druzhba in Belarus. According to their recommendations, repair works are planned to be carried out monthly. At the same time, there will be a "partial cessation of oil pumping" from Russia to the West.
Wall to wall confrontation
The Russian company Transneft calls the repair planned -- the Belarusian side warned about it back in December. "Partial cessation of oil pumping" began against the background of Russia's failure to supply oil to the Belarusian refineries, but the company believes that "it should not be considered political". However, oil and gas market specialist Mikhail Krutikhin does not believe in such coincidences.
"I don't know if there's any need for repairs. Prevention is really carried out there. But not as often as it's described now. The statement says that all this will be done almost every month. It seems to be a "wall to wall" confrontation. These political demands, which are put forward by Moscow, are supported by pressure on the oil supply and transit line".
Will Belarus be able to completely stop the transit of Russian oil to Europe under the pretext of "repair works"? The Russian expert doubts that the Belarusian side will dare to take such a step.
"So far, this has been a game, political pressure on each other. But to reject [transit. - Euroradio] would be a very hard economic step. Both transit fees and, basically, supplies of Russian oil give Belarus considerable revenues to the state budget. Therefore, it would be an economic misfortune to reject it".
The expert cannot predict what this game will lead to and who will be the winner: "It is very difficult to predict political steps because these steps are made by unpredictable politicians."
The repairs of the Druzhba pipeline is a formal reason for Russia to return to the negotiating table with Belarus, said economic analyst Tatsiana Manyonak.
"Naturally, this [repairs of the oil pipeline. - Euroradio] can be seen as an element of bargaining, the desire to bring down the price of Russian oil for the current year, to agree on acceptable terms on oil transportation tariffs. For Belarus, the losses from the tax maneuver and the fact that oil re-clearance stopped this year are too great. Belarusian refineries found themselves in a difficult situation and had to reduce their load to a technological minimum".
Another battle in the war with Russian oil companies is unlikely to be victorious for Belarus, said the expert from Belarus. Having no serious options for alternative oil supplies, it will be difficult for our country to insist on its position in negotiations with Russia.
Should we wait for a "response" from Russia to "repairs" of the Belarusian side?
"It is already reacting in a harsh way now, not willing to give additional preferences to the Belarusian side without concessions in the Union construction. That's why we see such a dispute, which is quite tough. The Belarusian side is vulnerable, because it is totally tied to the supply of Russian raw materials, so it finds itself in such a difficult situation," said Tatsiana Manyonak.
Back in April 2019, Alyaksandr Lukashenka started talking about the fact that the Druzhba pipeline needs repairs. The head of Belarus said that the Belarusian side is ready for such a step, "because the good we do for the Russian Federation, constantly comes back to us as evil".