Leaders of Russia and Belarus meet amid oil spat, reports of pending union

Leaders of Russia and Belarus meet amid oil spat, reports of pending union

On the sidelines of a Eurasian Economic Union summit in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and

russia belarus putin lukashenko

Photo: Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty

On the sidelines of a Eurasian Economic Union summit in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will hold bilateral talks.

Belarus and Russia are currently at odds over contaminated oil stuck in the Druzhba oil pipeline. At 4,000 km, the pipeline is the largest in the world, with a capacity of 1.2 to 1.4 million barrels per day spread across a network of lines that includes Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Germany and others. In April, some 5 million tonnes of oil were contaminated with organic chloride, shutting down the pipeline. To Belarus’s disapproval, Russia has plans to pump some of the contaminated oil in its part of the pipeline back in the direction of Belarus.

Russia and Belarus depend on one another for their energy needs. Because of this mutually dependent relationship, it is unlikely a dispute over contaminated oil will significantly affect relations over the long-term. Indeed, Russia and Belarus have continued to step up joint efforts to prepare an “action programme” on the integration of the two countries into one union state. While many see the potential union as a move to keep President Putin in power beyond his constitutionally allowed term limit, mutual energy dependency may serve as an alternative justification.

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