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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Halts Diesel Pipeline After Leak

MINSK -- Belarus has halted a Russian pipeline pumping diesel via its territory to the Latvian port of Ventspils due to a leak of fuel, the Belarussian Emergency Situations Ministry said Saturday.

"We cannot resume the pumping before [the problem] is fixed. It will now depend on the company [running the pipeline] and should be done by its specialists," said Vitaly Novitsky, the ministry's spokesman.

He added that preliminary information showed the leak had caused no major ecological damage.

The pipeline belongs to Russian state firm Transnefteprodukt, which was not available for comment over the weekend.

The link is pumping around 10 million tons of diesel from refineries in central Russia to Ventspils for export to world markets.

Oil traders said earlier in the week that they were unable to ship oil products to the ports in neighboring Estonia due to logistical problems on the Russian railroad and said the problem could be linked to rocky political relations between Moscow and Tallinn.

If the pipeline to Ventspils remains dry for a long period of time, the halt will put additional pressure on oil markets in northwest Europe, which are already facing shortages due to scarce exports of Russian refined products from Estonia.

Last year, Russia closed a pipeline to Lithuania's port of Butinge, also blaming a pipeline leak, but oil traders then said they thought it was Moscow's revenge for the sale of Lithuania's refiner Mazeikiu to a Polish company instead of a Kremlin-friendly firm.