World newswires

Belarus buys Norwegian oil as Russia supply at risk

Belarus on Thursday began importing oil from Norway via neighbouring EU and NATO member Lithuania amid a supply row with Russia, its main ally and energy provider.

A tanker carrying 80,000 tonnes crude oil from Norway destined for Belarus docked at Lithuania's Baltic seaport of Klaipeda on Thursday morning, port spokeswoman Dovile Ringis told AFP.

Belarus is seeking to diversify its oil suppliers to reduce its near-total dependence on Russian oil, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday, as Minsk and Moscow remained tangled in their latest energy dispute.

Russia stopped oil supplies for Belarus in early January for several days after a contract setting price and volumes ran out.

A new contract has since been signed, but its terms are not known, and speculation is rife that it may only ensure partial supplies and only for the month of January.

EU and NATO members Lithuania and Poland in September 2019 offered to help neighbour Belarus ease its heavy dependence on Russian oil, amid initial moves by Minsk to warm frosty ties with the West.

While Belarus until recently imported all its oil from Russia at a special reduced rate, with Russian prices set to go up Lukashenko said on Tuesday that it is now aiming for a new ratio of "30 to 40 percent of oil from Russia, 30 percent from the Baltic states and 30 percent from Ukraine."

Vilnius-based political analyst Linas Kojala told AFP that the Norwegian crude deliveries were "a way of showing Minsk that it has alternatives to Russian energy supplies, even if limited in scope and more expensive".