MINSK - Minsk on Saturday accused Russia of acting illegally in applying full export fees to oil pumped to Belarus, in a sign that the dispute -- which some fear could disrupt supplies to Europe -- is far from resolved.
Russia has effectively come out of the agreement one-sidedly and is illegally applying full duties to Russian companies supplying oil to Belarus, Alexander Shpilevsky, the head of the Belarussian customs committee, told a news briefing.
An unresolved dispute over Russia's oil exports to its neighbour has led to Moscow imposing full export duties from January 1 on most of its crude supplies to Belarus.
Shpilevsky said that in his opinion, the agreement which expired at the end of 2009 implied that after its expiration oil exports to Belarus should not be subject to customs fees.
Russia allowed Belarus to import oil in 2009 with only 35.6 percent of the current crude export tariff. This year, it has said that Belarus can buy 6 million tonnes of Russian oil for domestic needs only, duty-free, while the remaining 14.5 million tonnes a year -- that Belarus refines and re-exports to the West -- should not be exempted from duties.
Russian oil flows to Belarussian refineries have continued, albeit at much lower levels than previously.
Urals consumers along the Druzhba pipeline say they fear that any escalation of the dispute may affect transit supplies to Europe.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Toni Vorobyova; Editing by Toby Chopra)