Belarus to receive its first US oil shipment, in move to wean off Russian supply

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the United States will send its first shipment of 80,000 tons of crude oil to Belarus, which has sought alternative oil suppliers after a monthslong pricing dispute with Russia.

Pompeo said he believes this newest partnership “strengthens Belarusian sovereignty and independence.”

Russia cut oil supplies to Belarus in January after Belarusian officials disputed 2020 oil prices, along with Russia's proposed increased integration of their economic ties.

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Belarus reportedly received 80 percent of its energy needs from Russia, along with discounted oil prices. But after oil shipments were halted from Russia, Belarus started receiving oil from Norway, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia instead.

In a statement Friday, Pompeo said: “The United States urges Belarus to build on the progress it has made to increase the access of American businesses to its market and undertake the market-oriented, trade-liberalizing reforms necessary to advance its World Trade Organization accession process.”

This new deal will be led by U.S. energy company United Energy Trading with assistance from U.S. logistics firm Getka, along with their Polish partner UNIMOT -- a supplier in fuel, energy and gas.

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Pompeo said this arrangement also shows America’s eagerness to “deliver trade opportunities for American companies interested in entering the Belarusian market.”

Russia will continue to provide oil for Belarus through the state-owned oil company Rosneft -- they will supply 9 million tons of oil to Belarus this year.

It is unclear at this time how much oil the US will be providing Belarus proportionately to Russia.

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"We consider cooperation with the U.S. in the oil sector to be a core element of energy security of the state,” Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said Friday in a statement.

He also said this deal is “a crucial part of trade and investment engagement being developed by the parties and… a factor consolidating economic sovereignty of our country.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.