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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 13:37 GMT
Russia-Belarus oil row grips media
Oil refinery in Mozyr, Belarus
Russia said it was forced to shut down oil supplies

The row between Russia and Belarus over oil supplies and transit duties is receiving wide coverage in the media of both countries.

TV channels have reported on the talks in Moscow and interviewed those involved in a dispute which also affects consumers in Central and Western Europe.

Russia's state-controlled Channel One TV has devoted much of its evening news to the story. One presenter said the "crisis" in Russian-Belarusian relations was "costing Russia billions".

In contrast, the presenter of the evening news on state-controlled Belarus TV said it was "Russia's fault" that the talks had failed. He was speaking before Belarus announced that a compromise deal had been reached on Wednesday.

Knock-on effects

Russia's Channel One, which rarely features Belarusian voices in its reports, concentrated on President Vladimir Putin's meeting on Tuesday with ministers, highlighting his request that talks must continue and that the interests of Russian firms be safeguarded.

The TV has also covered the knock-on effects for Germany, where it says there are no signs yet of panic-buying, and it has looked at the Czech Republic, where it says the authorities fear there will be queues at filling stations.

Coverage on Belarus TV is more partisan, with a presenter commenting that Russia's actions "pose a threat to Belarus's sovereignty".

She recalled that Russia, Belarus, the UK and the US signed a memorandum in 1994 guaranteeing Belarus's sovereignty and that they pledged not to put economic pressure on Belarus.

The reputation of Russia as a reliable supplier of fuel is again under threat
Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Reports from Europe have included a correspondent remarking that Europeans have become "hostages" to Russia's energy policy.

Belarus TV also featured a survey conducted by a pro-government pollster, suggesting that 82% of Belarusians and 52% of Russians support Belarus's move to introduce transit duties on Russian oil.

Russian anxiety

Russian papers worry about the consequences of the dispute.

The state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta laments that "Europe has been left without Russian oil... The reputation of Russia as a reliable supplier of fuel is again under threat."

Gazeta agrees, saying that "after what has happened, it is unlikely that the EU will trust Russia as the guarantor of world energy security... it will not be easy to restore our reputation."

Russia's papers also look at what the row might mean for the proposed union between Russia and Belarus.

"Even pathological optimists doubt the existence of the Union in reality," says the popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.

It is a pity that some highly-placed people in the Kremlin treat Belarus's independence in a condescending way
Sovetskaya Belorussiya

The centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta sees military co-operation under threat. "Minsk has started reviewing the functioning of Russian military facilities on the territory of Belarus."

The business daily Vedomosti is alone in printing criticism of the Russian side. Vladimir Milov of the Institute of Energy Policy accuses the Kremlin of a "deep lack of professionalism".

"They wanted to receive $230 for gas and raise oil duties all at once. They pushed it too far."

'Condescending' Kremlin

The pro-government Sovetskaya Belorussiya repeats the charge that "the very sovereignty of Belarus is under threat".

"It is a pity that some highly-placed people in the Kremlin treat Belarus's independence in a condescending way and operate under the illusion that they dominate the Union State of Belarus and Russia."

Another pro-government daily Zvyazda says "one thing remains clear: so far the only losers have been the peoples of our brotherly countries."

Belarus opposition papers view the row as evidence of failure by President Alexander Lukashenko's government.

For the newsletter Yezhednevnik "it is patently clear that the Belarus authorities were ill-prepared for the economic dust-up with Moscow."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




SEE ALSO
Belarus 'agrees Russian oil deal'
10 Jan 07 |  Business
Russia 'forced' into oil shutdown
09 Jan 07 |  Business
Russia oil row hits Europe supply
08 Jan 07 |  Business
Belarus hits Russia with oil tax
03 Jan 07 |  Business
The press in Russia
07 Dec 06 |  Europe

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