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Russia Calls Belarus' Oil Tax Illegal

The Kremlin says Belarus is breaking the law and a long-standing trade deal by imposing a tax on Russian oil flowing thorough a Belarusian pipeline to Europe.

Russian trade officials said Thursday Belarus made the move without consulting them. One Russian official said Belarus is disregarding civilized trade rules that are accepted worldwide.

Officials in Belarus say the tax is in retaliation for Russian plans to start taxing oil exports to Belarus.

But Russia says Belarus is breaking the law because the oil flowing across Belarus is heading to customers in eastern and western Europe.

U.S. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack said Thursday the Belarusian tax is another example of what he called the "rotten core" of the regime in Belarus. He noted that Belarus traditionally took tax-free Russian oil and sold it to third countries for an enormous profit.

Russia and Belarus signed an agreement earlier this week that more than doubles the price of Russian natural gas exports to Belarus. In exchange, Russia will buy half interest in a Belarusian pipeline that brings Russian gas to Europe. Russia says the oil tax dispute will have no impact on gas deliveries to Europe.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.