Another sign of Minsk and Kremlin rapprochement

Russia withdrew from a plan to increase oil export through newly built pipeline BTS-2 which bypasses Belarus, which would have deprived the country of profits from transit – Reuters reported last week.

The new pipeline was supposed to carry 30 million tones a year to Ust-Luga terminal, from where the oil tankers would have been shipped to Europe. But Transneft, the constructor, announced that only 10 million tones will go through BTS-2 during the first phase of operating the new pipeline. The second phase is scheduled to begin in 2013. Igor Diomin, a spokesperson for the company, informed that the first ship with oil will sail out of Ust-Luga in November. In order to fill the 1000 kilometer pipeline, Transneft will decrease amount of oil shipped from Gdansk and from Russian port Primorsk. Each will be lowered by 5 million tones.

BTS-2 pipeline starts in Bransk, 400 kilometers south-east from Moscow and runs to Baltic ports Ust-Luga, near Petersburg. The estimate cost of the investment is 4 million dollars.

The decision is a sign of improving relations between Russia and Belarus, thinks Belarusian commentator Siarhej Chaly. – Russia has now an opportunity to buy second half of Bieltransgaz shares, so instead of exporting gas through the alternative routs, they can do it cheaper through Belarusian territory. – said Chaly. He thinks that building BTS-2 was meant to achieve political, rather than economic goals. – Russia plays now a role of a “good policeman” – getting what they want through a softer approach – commented Chaly.

The sings of enhanced relations between the two countries were visible in an exchange of compliments between prime minister Putin and president Lukashenka, when both enthusiastically commented on integration plans through Eurasian Union and reaching an agreement on gas export between Gazprom and Belarus, which includes selling 50% of Bieltransgas shares – a company which owns and operates Belarusian gas pipelines.


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