Putin: Russia will remain reliable energy supplier

Russia has been and will remain a reliable supplier of energy, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday a statement that closely follows a bitter oil dispute with Belarus that interrupted supplies to Europe.

Russia shut off oil supplies to the ex-Soviet neighbor for three days last week in a dispute over customs duties and transit fees, disrupting supplies to Germany, Poland and other European nations.

The spat ended Friday with an agreement envisaging that Russia will get a lion's share of profits from refined oil products Belarus makes using Russian oil and then sells to Europe.

Without naming Belarus, Putin said in televised remarks that "energy security can only be achieved through a shared responsibility of all participants in the energy chain."

"Russia has been a reliable supplier of energy resources for decades, and we intend to do all we can in the future to fully observe our obligations," Putin said while receiving credentials from foreign ambassadors to Moscow.

The oil dispute between Russia and Belarus added to European fears about Moscow's reliability as an energy supplier a reputation that had already been damaged by last year's price dispute with Ukraine and temporary shortages of Russian gas to European customers.

Both disputes and energy price hikes for other ex-Soviet nations have drawn criticism of Russia from Western nations, which have accused Moscow of using its vast mineral wealth as a political weapon, reports AP.

Russia has dismissed the accusations, saying it has raised energy prices to market levels, and Putin has reaffirmed that argument Thursday. "Russia has taken steps to put energy relations with all nations on a transparent, free-market basis free from any political considerations," Putin said.

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