Russia says technical reasons for oil supply cuts to Czechs

July 15th, 2008 - 12:36 am ICT by IANS  

Prague, July 14 (DPA) Technical problems were behind the Russian oil supply cuts to the Czech Republic that coincided with the signing of a Czech-US missile shield deal, the Czech Industry and Trade Ministry said Monday after a meeting with a Russian official. Moscow’s commercial representative in Prague Grigory Sarishvili told Czech officials that “production problems and unspecified changes in Russian supply firms” have caused the cuts, said ministry spokesman Tomas Bartovsky.

“It was clearly stated that politics play no role,” Bartovsky said.

Earlier reports said the cuts could be linked to a scramble among Russia’s oil dealers over export rights following the shift of power in the Kremlin.

Russia began reducing oil deliveries to the Czech Republic July 4, but slashed supply significantly after the top US and Czech diplomats, Condoleeza Rice and Karel Schwarzenberg, signed a missile defence treaty July 8.

The cuts of oil flowing to the country via the Druzhba pipeline have amounted to 70,000 tons by Monday from 520,000 tons contracted for July, Bartovsky said.

The US would like to place radar and 10 interceptor missiles as part of its missile shield in former Soviet satellites, the Czech Republic and Poland respectively, a plan fiercely opposed by Russia.

Moscow says the system could be used to spy on Russia instead of protecting Europe against potential long-range missiles from so-called rogue states such as Iran.

Russia has in the past reduced energy supplies to the West for both political and economic reasons. The Czech Republic imports 75 percent of its gas and 70 percent of its oil from Russia.

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