Transneft has resumed in full oil supplies to Europe via the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline through Belarus, the Russian pipeline monopoly`s vice president said Thursday, according to RIA Novosti.

      "Supplies began at 8:22 [a.m. Moscow time]," Sergei Grigoriev said.

      Russia halted deliveries to Europe via the pipeline on January 7, saying Belarus was illegally tapping oil, following a tit-for-tat price and tariff dispute. Belarus imposed a transit levy of $45 per metric ton of crude after Moscow doubled the price of natural gas and introduced a duty on oil supplies to Belarus as of January 1.

      The interruption in supplies has affected Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and further damaged Russia`s reputation as a core energy supplier to Europe following a similar energy row with Ukraine involving natural gas this time last year.

      The standoff triggered more accusations in Europe that Russia is using hydrocarbons as a political tool, and discussions on the need to diversify energy sources.

      An agreement between Moscow and Minsk was reached to resume supplies Wednesday following a telephone conversation between presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.

      Transneft agreed to resume supplies after receiving a Belarusian government resolution abolishing the transit levy on Europe-bound Russian oil.

      Poland and Ukraine confirmed earlier Thursday that Belarus had resumed crude transit through the Druzhba pipeline about nine hours before Transneft began supplies.

      Transneft had said Wednesday that it would resume oil supplies through the pipeline after Belarus had pumped to Europe all of the 79,000 tons of crude that it siphoned off as payment for its transit levy.

      "Russian crude started arriving in Poland at 21.30 local time [20.30 GMT]," said Tomasz Zakrzewski, press secretary for PERN Przyjazn, the operator of Druzhba`s Polish section, which extends to Germany.

      He said oil was currently being received at the first Polish station on the pipeline, and that other stations would reach routine capacity with pressure growing in the pipe.


      Ukrtransnafta, Ukraine`s oil transit monopoly, also said oil transportation had completely resumed on the southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline, which extends to Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

      Alexei Kostyuchenko, general director of Belarusian pipeline operator Gomeltransneft Druzhba, confirmed that Belarus had restarted oil deliveries on both the southern and northern branches of Druzhba.