Belarusian petrol stirred up Russian refiners
On April 8th, it was reported that a number of Russian oil companies addressed the Russian Energy Ministry asking to limit the Belarusian petrol supply to the Russian market.
Belarus has committed to supply 3.3 million tons of petroleum products to the Russian market during 2013. Fulfilling its commitments, Belarus has considerably increased petrol supplies to the Russian market. As a result, traditional spring petrol price increases in Russia were limited and Russian oil companies tried to reduce competition to continue controlling petrol prices.
Belarus and Russia sign their oil supplies balance sheets quarterly. In Q1 the oil supply was agreed at 5.75 million tons and anticipated annual volume at 23 million tons. Belarus has also committed to Russia to increase Belarusian oil products supply to the Russian market to 3.3 million tons. The Q2 2013 agreement for the oil supply has been singed and Russia has no claims for short supply of Belarusian fuel to the Russian market. Preliminary data shows that in January-February 2013 Belarus supplied 200 000 tons of petroleum to the Russian market.
Belarus profits from the reorientation of a certain volume of petrol supplies to the Russian market. Belarus does not need to pay the petrol export duty to the Russian budget, sales of high-quality petrol have increased, as well as Belarus’ production, and low prices have resulted in tenfold January - February 2013 supplies, compared with the same period last year. Belarusian fuel is actively traded in St. Petersburg and Moscow stock exchanges. In addition, petroleum products return to Belarus after procession by Russian oil suppliers, who have not committed to counter deliveries of petroleum products.
Belarusian petrol is supplied at market prices. However, the supply growth has made angry a number of Russian companies, which have created an oligopoly trading system to increase own oil proceeds. Increased supplies of Belarusian petroleum to the Russian market, despite their relatively small volumes, have prevented major vertically-integrated oil companies from increasing the margin for oil products trade. Therefore, they have appealed to the Russian Energy Ministry, with the ultimate aim to return their usual high returns to the detriment of petroleum products end-users.
Russia’ government counter claim to Belarus for the petroleum products supply was a certain guarantee against petroleum products shortages in a number of Russian regions. However Russian oil companies have resolved their problems with fuel reserves and Belarusian oil products have become a barrier for major oil companies in maximizing their profits.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.