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Belarus, Russia Reach Deal to Reopen Oil Deliveries

The Mozyr oil refinery is seen near the town of Mozyr, Belarus, Jan. 4, 2020.

Oil executives say they have reached agreement to restart Russian crude oil supplies to Belarus following a cutoff over transit fees that occurred Wednesday.

Belarus agreed to abandon a supplier's premium on the oil that it imports from its much larger neighbor, Belarus state energy firm Belneftekhim said in a statement Saturday.

The deal should allow for continuous operation of Belarusian refineries in January, they said.

"Documents are being drawn up today together with a Russian company to pump the first batch of oil, purchased at a price without premium," Belneftekhim's statement said.

The halt in Russian oil supplies left oil bound for Europe unaffected but could have carried a wallop for Belarus, which depends on Russia for more than 80% of its energy.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Rumas reportedly spoke by telephone earlier Saturday to try to break the impasse.

Key transit route

Belarus is heavily dependent on Russia for fuel and cash, and it's a key transit route for Russian energy supplies to Europe.

Russia and Belarus reached a two-month deal on natural gas prices hours before a December 31 deadline, avoiding a gas shutoff at the start of the year.

Minsk has been locked in a disagreement with Moscow over oil transit prices for some time against a backdrop of increasing pressure by President Vladimir Putin on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenko to deepen integration between the two countries.

Belarusians have protested in recent weeks against closer ties to Russia and perceived secrecy around talks following up on a 1999 agreement on a unified state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.