04/29/2011, 00.00
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Moscow, fuel crisis: government blocks exports in May

by Nina Achmatova
Russians are queuing for petrol. The increase in exports of major oil companies that are riding the boom in oil prices is leaving distributors in many regions dry. And the government running for cover. In May, supplies only for the domestic market.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - It is one of the largest oil producers in the world, but today Russia is facing a fuel "famine". The crisis comes after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in February ordered gasoline prices maintain be kept low, in the midst of price speculation fuelled by the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile, the government has decided to block exports of refined products in the month of May, only supplying the domestic market.

State regulation has led the biggest national suppliers to increase exports, which are more profitable than the retail market following the oil boom now fixed above 110 US dollars a barrel. The lack of petrol and diesel reached its peak in the Easter weekend and is likely to affect the popularity of Prime Minister, directly responsible for economic policy, on the eve of the election campaign that could see him run for another term in the Kremlin in 2012.

Sounding the alarm on April 26 was the organization of Russian Fuel Union (RFU) after a meeting with the director of Russian Antitrust (FAS), Igor Artemiev. According to the RFU, which represents gas stations, the major suppliers - led by Rosneft and Gazprom Neft - refuse to supply fuel to private companies resulting in a shortage of fuel. "If the situation remains the same – warns Evgeny Arkush, chairman of the RFU - many regions could run out of fuel in the coming days."

Worrying reports have already arrived. The areas most at risk include St Petersburg, Voronezh, Novosibirsk, especially the islands of Altai and Sakhalin, in Siberia. Here most of the independent fuel distributors have already closed, ceasing their activities last weekend, and Rosneft stations (the state giant in black gold) provide only 20 litre per vehicle. Moscow is also under threat, despite the authorities trying to reassure consumers.

The scale of the crisis has pushed the big Russian oil companies to halt exports of refined products in May, supplying only the domestic market. The announcement of the Deputy Minister of Energy Sergei Kudriashov, that "companies will not export in May, all quantities will be delivered to the domestic market."

The situation, say experts, is likely to be exacerbated with the arrival of the planting season, during which the demand for diesel for the agricultural machinery industry increases. The spectrum of the lack of petrol really cares the government, so much so that Putin has instructed the competent authorities to report on individual cases in the various regions.

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