German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the sudden cut-off of Russian oil deliveries through a key pipeline crossing Belarus is destroying European confidence in Russia as an energy supplier.
In Berlin Tuesday, Ms. Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the cut-off "unacceptable" saying Moscow did not consult with European governments before taking action.
Russia stopped pumping oil through the Druzhba "Friendship" pipeline, after accusing Belarus of siphoning 79,000 tons of oil since Saturday meant for European customers. Belarus says it seized the oil as payment on a tax it imposed on Russian exports last week.
Meanwhile, Belarusian negotiators are in Moscow seeking emergency talks on the dispute. But Belarus says the talks had not yet begun because Moscow was not prepared for negotiations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told government ministers today to continue negotiations with Belarus, and to do "everything" to protect oil supplies to Western consumers.
European leaders say the cutoff has affected Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Officials said Monday that member-countries with oil shortfalls would rely on reserves to weather the cut-off.
Last week, the Minsk government imposed a $45 customs duty on each ton of Russian crude oil crossing Belarus on its way to Europe. Moscow rejected the tax as illegal.
Almost exactly a year ago Moscow briefly cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine in a pricing dispute, disrupting deliveries to western Europe.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.