Russia demands $1.5 billion of unpaid duties from Minsk
Moscow has suggested that Belarus transfer $1.5 billion more to the Russian budget over its reported move to export diesel fuel made of Russian crude under the guise of solvents, diluents and lubricants.
Russian government officials have made the suggestion during ongoing talks on the terms of oil deliveries to Belarus in the fourth quarter of this year and in 2013, according to Russia's news agency Prime.
"Russia has suggested returning to the Russian budget the duties that it did not receive because of Belarus' exports of solvents, diluents, lubricants, etc.," an unnamed Russian government official was quoted as saying.
When petroleum products made from Russian oil are exported outside the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, Belarus is required to transfer the amount it collects in export duty to Russia. No export duty is levied on solvents, diluents and lubricants.
Russian officials have repeatedly expressed concern about a dramatic increase in the export of solvents from Belarus this year, saying that Belarus may be exporting diesel fuel disguised as solvents, diluents and lubricants in order to avoid transferring the export duties it collects to Russia.
Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich said in mid-September that exports of solvents and diluents had been completely stopped more than a month before in order to avoid suspicion on the part of the Russia's partners.
According to Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich, the occurred conflict "is a little bit strange."
"They voice anonymous statements while the parties beware to talk about the oil conflict officially," he told UDF.BY. "I would like to note that there are no informational war, which is usual for every Russia-Belarus conflict. Besides, Lukashenka was very discreet when talking about Russia's leadership."
"The tension between the countries don't transcend to a public level - the conflict has 'behind-the-scenes' character. But the conflict is getting sharper - Russia has passed from words to deeds," Mr Karbalevich said, adding that the volume of oil deliveries were cut in the fourth quarter of 2012 and in 2013. Moreover, Russia acts within a very unhealthy 'field' for Minsk - the oil 'field'.
Leanid Zaika [economist], head of an analytical center called Strategy, said that Minsk had no money to pay Moscow "such an oil penalty." "We are guilty that we imagine ourselves smarter than Russians. Minsk violated gentlemen rules and they must answer for the words said," Mr Zaika said. "They had to think over the consequences when they recklessly exported oil to Europe claiming that it had been solvents and diluents. Putin does not like cheating".