Czechs Tap Reserves as Russian Oil Falls

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic's main oil refiner said Saturday that it was tapping state oil reserves and bringing in crude through an alternate pipeline after Russia cut deliveries.

Czech officials said Friday that the cuts would nearly halve incoming oil from Russia — which could hurt ties already under strain after the Czechs disregarded Russian objections and signed a missile-defense pact with the United States last week.

The country has been quick to quell speculation the reduced deliveries are politically motivated, and refinery Unipetrol said they were the result of "technical organizational" problems in Russia.

Unipetrol board member Ivan Ottis said the company had offset the reduced deliveries with state reserves and had increased the crude volume from the TAL-IKL pipeline from the Mediterranean. "At this moment, we have the situation under control," he said. "Our production is not affected in any way."

He said there would be no fuel shortages or a rise in prices, in what Unipetrol said it believed would be a "short outage."

Czech officials said they demanded an explanation from Russia for the supply cuts, and government and energy officials are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the situation. The Czechs depend on Russia for most of their oil supplies but also have an alternative link to Ingolstadt in Germany. The country of 10.4 million people has oil-products reserves for more than 90 days.

Vaclav Bartuska, a Czech envoy, said Russia's "technical" problems had not affected Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.