Oil duties raised
Belarus increased export duties on oil and oil products exported outside the Customs Union territory. This decision of the Council of Ministers of 19 April 2011 № 557 came into force on 1 May.
Export duty on petrol went up to USD 408 per tonne, or 90% of the oil duty replacing the recent 67%, the growth on remaining fuel oil and oil products is not that significant.
Belarus was forced to raise export duty rates on petroleum products following Russia. The latter used such measures to saturate the domestic market with petrol.
In these new circumstances export of petrol by Belarusian refineries becomes unprofitable, and given the high proportion of loss-making sales of petroleum products on the domestic market jeopardizes the profitability of Belarusian oil refining as a whole.
Therefore, refineries asked the government to revoke the binding obligatory sale of 30% of foreign currency earnings. Refineries refer to the difficult financial situation and losses in the first quarter, as a result of: 1. growing world oil prices, 2. changes of conditions for importers of Russian oil (oil price this year includes high rewards for Russian oil barons,) 3. lagging growth of export prices for petroleum products from the raw materials prices, 4. growing consumption of fuel at the domestic market, 5. the need to purchase the entire volume of oil with the shortage of currency to pay for it. It is unlikely that the request of the refineries will be met.
However, the main item of the Belarusian petroleum products export is diesel fuel (40%) and residual fuel (40%) rather than petrol (20%), this casts doubt on the apocalyptic threats by some analysts, in particular the Financial News Agency, which is close to the Russian oil companies. It is obvious that Russian oil companies would be interested in re-exporting petrol from the Belarusian oil refineries to Russia, however so far Belarusian refineries do not consider this option.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.