Further escalation in Belarusian-Russian relations
By Anatol Pankouski
Last week, the Belarusian-Russian conflict reached new planes, embracing the anti-epidemic policies, medical assistance, border control, and gas matters. Oil supplies have been settled, but the timeframe, the sales prospects for Belarusian petrochemicals and the profitability of oil refining remain uncertain.
Last week, Belneftekhim spokesperson announced that contracts concluded with Russian and other companies to supply oil to Belarus in April would ensure, as anticipated, the supply at circa 2 million tons. That said, in January – March, refineries were receiving only half of this. Meanwhile, Russian Transneft has confirmed rout orders to Belarus at 1.322 million tons, adding that applications were still incoming. Neither party has disclosed the timeframe of deliveries.
Additionally, last week, two tankers carrying 85 tons of oil each meant for Belarusian refineries arrived at the port of Yuzhny from Azerbaijan and to Klaipeda from Norway. At least in April, Belarusian refineries will operate at full capacity, however, the sales prospects of Belarusian petrochemicals and the profitability of oil refineries are debatable.
Meanwhile, Belarus’ relations with Russia have further deteriorated. Lukashenka has sharply responded to Russia’s criticism of his measures to address the COVID-19 epidemic and said that he had not asked Russia for assistance. During the EEU leaders’ meeting in Zoom, Lukashenka spoke about the need to lower the gas price for Belarus, which indeed appeared unreasonably high amid lower spot prices. Later, Lukashenka lashed out at Russian COVID-19 tests, prompting a sharp response from the Kremlin, Rospotrebnadzor and the Russian Chief Medical Officer.
All the above was marred by a conflict between foreign ministries of both states. In response to an interview with Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei, accusing Russia of the lack of assistance in countering the coronavirus and closing borders, Russian Ambassador Mizentsev on April 15thlisted all the cases when Russia assisted Belarus. Later, the same list was reiterated by the Russian Foreign Ministry.