Russia is continuing talks with Belarus on oil deliveries to the ex-Soviet republic in 2010, with oil transit across the Belarusian territory provided in full, an aide to Russia's energy minister said on Sunday.
"Transportation is carried out in full while the negotiating process is continuing," Irina Yesipova said.
Belarus benefited from significant discounts on Russian oil imports in 2009, and is seeking a similar deal this year. Russia says it is willing to eliminate all duties on oil supplied to Belarus for domestic consumption, but wants oil bound for European markets to be subject to duty.
A Belarusian government source said on Saturday that Russia's position at negotiations on a 2010 agreement for oil deliveries to Belarus is seriously undermining the new Customs Union between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.
The Customs Union between the three former Soviet states came into force on January 1, although many aspects of the project will only be finalized over the coming year.
Russia exported around 25 million tons of oil to Belarus last year, but only 5-6 million tons were for domestic consumption. The rest was re-exported, some after passing through one of the country's two oil refineries.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin suggested on December 18 that Belarus could import the domestic volumes duty-free due to the "brotherly relations" between the two countries, leaving the remaining 15 million tons subject to export duties.
The top Russian official warned as talks broke down on Thursday that with no new agreement signed, Belarus would have to pay full customs duties on the oil it imports.
Meanwhile, Mikhail Barkov, vice-president of Russia's Transneft oil pipeline monopoly, said on Sunday that oil transit via Belarus would not be reduced in any circumstances while oil deliveries to the ex-Soviet republic depended on Minsk's position.
MOSCOW, January 3