Ukraine resumes Russian oil transit to Europe

KIEV: Ukraine resumed Russian oil exports to Central Europe and beyond on Wednesday after power cuts caused by storms knocked out two pipelines, the energy ministry said.

With electricity restored, "transport through the Druzbha pipeline has been reestablished" and was expected to return to full power Wednesday evening, ministry spokesman Fent Di said.

The Odessa-Brody pipeline had been returned to 100 percent capacity, he said.

The two pipelines, which experts say transport about a fifth of Russian oil exports to Europe, had been knocked off-line when two pumping stations in the Lviv region of western Ukraine had their power cut due to the storms.

Ukrainian pipeline operator Ukrtransnafta had said supplies to Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic were interrupted after one pumping station at Karpaty stopped functioning due to a brownout late on Tuesday.

Another pumping station at Brody in the same area was hit by a power cut on Wednesday, which halted supplies to a terminal in the ex-Soviet republic's south from where the oil is shipped to Mediterranean countries.

Hungarian oil and gas operator MOL said "the interruption in deliveries will not affect our refining as we have reserves to last for several days."

Vit Tuma of Czech pipeline operator Mero told CTK news agency that Mero had 50,000 tonnes in reserve -- "a sufficient quantity until the end of the week."

Tuma said the Ceska Rafinerska company also had 40,000 tonnes, which would last until October 21.

The southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline, the world's longest oil pipeline connecting Siberian fields to European markets, had been affected.

The branch pumps around 350,000 barrels per day, or about eight percent of Russia's total crude exports of 4.4 million barrels per day in 2007, according to oil market data compiled by the US Department of Energy.

Russia is one of the world's top two oil exporters with Saudi Arabia, and the European Union depends on Russia for more than a third of its oil imports.

Ukraine- a key transit point for Russian oil and gas- has been hit by a spate of bad weather including heavy rains, snow and gale-force winds, which have hit electricity supplies to 1,500 towns and villages.

The oil cut-offs came amid strained energy relations between Moscow and Kiev following a dispute that disrupted Russian natural gas supplies to many European countries in the middle of a bitterly cold winter in January.

Ukraine has warned that Russian gas supplies to Europe could be disrupted again in winter 2010-2011 unless deals between Moscow and Kiev are revised.

Relations between Moscow and Kiev have dropped to a post-Soviet low under Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power after the so-called Orange Revolution ousted the old pro-Moscow elite.