Lukashenko urges to diversify economy after Druzhba pipeline problems

# 23:08
7 August 2019

Belarus’ trade turnover has dropped due to the problems with Russian oil supplies, the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with outgoing British ambassador to Minsk Fionna Gibb on Wednesday, adding that the republic’s economy needs diversification, APA reports citing BelTA news agency.

"Our export and trade turnover largely depend on supplies of petroleum products, and (Belarus’) trade turnover slightly decreased after the Druzhba oil pipeline failure and problems with contaminated oil, which is why we need diversification," the president was quoted as saying by the BelTA news agency.

The Belarusian-British trade turnover amounts to $3.5 bln, he said, adding that the UK is the republic’s third-biggest partner in terms of trade turnover after Russia and Ukraine.

In mid-April, Belneftekhim reported a sharp deterioration in the quality of the Russian oil running through the pipeline. As a result, Gomeltransneft Druzhba (Belarusian operator of Druzhba) suspended transit supplies of contaminated Russian oil to Europe. Both Belarusian refineries - the Mozyr refinery (Gomel region) and Naftan (Vitebsk region) - reported the threat of damaging the equipment and reduced refining volumes almost by half, as well as forcedly halted export supplies of light petroleum products to Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.

Minsk and Moscow started intergovernmental talks on compensation issues in May. Belarus claims compensation for direct and indirect losses. At the end of June, Chief Executive Officer of the Belarusian Gomeltransneft Druzhba Oleg Borisenko said that the tariff on transit of the Russian oil should be increased by 21.7% as compensation for losses due to reduction of supplies volumes as a result of contamination of the Druzhba pipeline with off-spec oil. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said in mid-July that the tariff increase requirements are fair, but not of the scale announced by the Belarusian side.