Uladzimir Syamashka, Belarus' deputy prime minister, was scheduled to hold another round of talks on oil trade with Russian government officials in Moscow on January 26 amid reported shortages of crude at the two Belarusian oil refineries.
The Russian delegation to the talks was expected to be led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. Belarus and Russia have so far failed to reach an agreement on this year's terms of oil trade and Russian crude deliveries to Belarus have been reportedly cut by 50 percent in the last few days.
The previous round of the talks was held in Moscow on January 9 and ended in failure. Under an interstate agreement that was signed on January 12, 2007 and expired on December 31, 2009, crude oil exported to Belarus was subject to reduced export duty, which was 35.6 percent of the rate applied to oil exports to other countries.
Late last year Russia offered to supply up to six million tons of oil to Belarus free of duty in 2010 for its domestic consumption. An agreement was reached for Belarus to receive a total of 21.5 million tons of oil in 2010 and Moscow wanted the amount to be supplied in excess of the six million tons be subject to the full duty rate, warning that if a new agreement on the terms of oil deliveries failed to be signed, all oil supplied to Belarus would be subject to the full duty rate starting January 1.
Minsk reportedly demanded that all Russian oil to be supplied to Belarus be exported duty-free, explaining that this would meet the spirit of agreements recently reached by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia to form a customs union.
Russia is ready to offer Belarus a loan for buying crude oil in 2010, some media outlets reported with reference to a Kremlin source on Tuesday. In exchange Russia would like Belarus to refuse from participation in the extension of the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline, an international project that could harm Russian oil producers' interests, the unnamed source was quoted as saying.