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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Delays Vote on Odessa Oil Plan

KIEV -- Ukraine's parliament Wednesday postponed a decisive vote on the future of a controversial oil terminal planned for the Black Sea port of Odessa.

Work on the terminal has been blocked by Odessa city authorities and environmental protesters since shortly after it began in May. Some top officials in Kiev recently joined the chorus of opponents, charging the project is too big for Ukraine's needs.

Supporters of the plan say the terminal's construction is vital to the country's energy independence.

Parliament will return to the issue next month. Lawmakers had been asked this week to approve an earlier decision by Ukraine's government giving the go-ahead for construction of the $2.5 billion terminal, which would handle 40 million metric tons of crude oil per year, or 800,000 barrels a day. By giving official backing to the project at the national level, a "yes" vote would have overruled local objections in Odessa.

The project, designed to let energy-starved Ukraine import oil without using pipelines controlled by Russia, has won strong support from politicians who want to see Ukraine ease its heavy dependence on Russia for energy. In an impassioned speech to lawmakers Tuesday, former Premier Valentyin Landyk said, "If you want Ukraine to be fully independent, you must back the terminal."

Ukraine owes Russia about $1.5 billion for fuel, and the debt is growing.

The terminal, consisting of four containers offshore from the port of Yuzhni, 20 kilometers north of Odessa, would enable tankers to offload crude oil, which would then be sent by an existing pipeline to eastern Ukraine for refining.

The terminal would allow Ukraine to import oil from the Middle East through a planned pipeline across Turkey.