Will Transneft stop deliveries of oil products through Belarus?
After a year of calm, oil relations between Russia and Belarus are beginning to worsen again. Transneft is considering the possibility of terminating the operations of its Belarusian subsidiary due to a sharp increase in taxes and pressure from law enforcement agencies, finanz.ru writes.
Zapad-Transnefteprodukt, which pumps gasoline from Russian and Belarusian refineries to Hungary and Latvia, may suspend operations, said Nikolai Tokarev, President of Transneft. Since the beginning of the year, Minsk has increased the tax rate on the transit of Russian oil and oil products from 18% to 50%, as well as introduced an environmental tax.
"The enterprise is drained of blood, 700 Belarusian citizens work there, and the enterprise works at a loss. Of course, this situation cannot suit Transneft," said Tokarev, adding that the situation of the Belarusian subsidiary has been "aggravated manually" by the country's authorities.
In the case, according to Tokarev, Belarusian law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and tax officials were involved.
“We will conduct a very attentive economic audit, although everything is already clear to us, and the decision will be made from the perspective. In the near future, in two or three weeks, a large package of agreed bilateral documents will be signed; if after that the situation does not change, then the enterprise's activities will be possibly suspended, the issue will have to be resolved," the head of Transneft said.
At the beginning of the year, Transneft warned that, by sharply increasing taxes, Minsk was creating conditions for the bankruptcy of Zapad-Transnefteprodukt with possible subsequent nationalization of the enterprise. According to the company's estimates, the new tax regime will bring it 700-800 million rubles in losses annually.
The official representative of Transneft, Igor Demin, then explained that the 50% tax is discriminatory, since it was introduced only in relation to Zapad-Transnefteprodukt, and does not apply to companies of Belarusian origin.
Lukashenka previously announced the possible nationalization of Russian pipeline assets in 2019, when Moscow and Minsk were arguing over oil prices. He threatened to take two of the three lines of the Druzhba pipeline, through which every fifth barrel of Russian oil is exported.
“I have three pipes of the Druzhba oil pipeline. I take one at the first stage and deliver to our refineries. If it goes well, I’ll reverse the second pipe. You will be left with one,” Lukashenka said then.