Russia to supply oil to Turkey instead of Czech

Russian state officials have said last week's cut in oil flows to the Czech Republic via the Druzhba pipeline were of a technical nature, denying that it was linked to Prague's role in a U.S. missile defence shield.

Russia to supply oil to Turkey instead of Czech
Oil company Tatneft, one of two key suppliers of Russian crude to the Czech Republic, said on Tuesday it had reduced the deliveries because it had re-routed volumes to Turkey, where it could get better prices.

Russian state officials have said last week's cut in oil flows to the Czech Republic via the Druzhba pipeline were of a technical nature, denying that it was linked to Prague's role in a U.S. missile defence shield.

Russian state pipeline monopoly Transneft coordinates the supplies, of which one third belong to Tatneft and two thirds to another mid-sized producer, Bashneft, which has so far declined to comment.

"We were simply lacking volumes to meet our supply plan for (Turkish refiner) Tupras," Nurislam Subayev, advisor to Tatneft's deputy general director, told Reuters.

Tupras is Turkey's biggest refiner and a large importer of crude from Tatneft.

"They (Tupras) are our long-time partners and the margins are better there," he said. He declined to specify the scale of the cut and said Tatneft would soon return to normal supply volumes to the Czech Republic via the Druzhba pipeline.

The reduction in crude flows from Russia, the Czech Republic's main supplier, followed Prague's decision to host a radar station as part of a U.S. missile shield fiercely opposed by Moscow.


Official explanations

Some analysts have said the cut could have been a retaliation by Moscow and pointed to confusing official explanations.

Transneft has said both Tatneft and Bashneft reduced supplies to the Czech Republic only because the two Russian firms had decided to refine more crude at home.

Prague has said the Russian foreign ministry's explanations focused on problems with domestic oil extraction, which the Czech Foreign ministry said it found hard to believe, given that its neighbours had avoided cuts in their supplies.

Russia's foreign ministry said only that the cuts were of a commercial rather than political nature.

Russia strongly opposes the missile shield plan involving its Soviet-era satellite countries, saying it poses a direct threat to its own security.

Moscow has said it would point missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland -- another possible site for shield components -- if the deployment goes ahead.

Moscow has in the past cut gas supplies to Ukraine in a pricing dispute and subsequently reduced deliveries of gas to the European Union, prompting the United States to call on Russia to stop using energy as a tool of blackmail.

By contrast, a Russian oil supply reduction to Germany last year was recognised by both countries as a commercial dispute between a major oil firm and a monopoly crude importer.

If the reduction in supply were to be maintained until the end of the month, crude oil deliveries in July to the Czech Republic would be about 200,000 tonnes below the planned 500,000 tonnes.

The main Czech refiner, Unipetrol, said at the weekend it had begun tapping state oil reserves and raising deliveries through the IKL pipeline, which hooks up to a west European pipeline system in Germany.

Reuters
Last Mod: 16 Temmuz 2008, 11:29
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