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Russia plays hardball with Latvian Oil Terminal

Russia has halted the shipment of oil to the Latvian port of Ventspils until April, "Finansovye izvestiya" reported on 7 February, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko.

Western analysts cited in the report believe the step was taken in order to lower the value of -- or even bankrupt -- the oil-terminal operator Ventspils Nafta because Russian state oil-pipeline operator Transneft is hoping to acquire a stake in the company.

Transneft Vice President Sergei Grigoriev confirmed his company's interest in Ventspils Nafta and said the moratorium on oil shipments will be lifted if management of the terminal is handed over to Russia in exchange for $143 million offered by a group of Russian oil majors, reported on 7 February.

Representatives of the Latvian side are insisting on payment of at least $200 million. However, Grigoriev retorted, with no Russian oil passing through it, the terminal is worthless.

(RFE/RL 07.ii.03)

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