Belarus protests spread to refineries

Widespread protests across Belarus since the presidential election on 9 August appeared to spread to the country's oil refineries today.

Footage from unverified channels on Twitter and Telegram showed crowds of people outside state-owned Belneftekhim's 220,000 b/d Novopolotsk refinery and 323,000 b/d Mozyr plants, seemingly dressed in work uniforms in the former case.

A document seen by Argus, purportedly issued this morning by workers at Mozyr to the plant's general director, indicated that staff will go on strike between 12:00-15:00 every day from 20 August unless a list of demands — including declaring the election null and void, holding new elections and freeing of political prisoners — are met. The document's veracity could not be confirmed.

Belneftekhim said that its refineries are working normally and that there has been no impact on production or crude supplies to the plants. Yesterday it denied reports of strikes at Mozyr, which with Novopolotsk undergoing scheduled maintenance is Belarus' only operational refinery.

Unrest has broken out in several Belarusian cities since the election in which incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko claimed around 80pc of the vote. Protests spread from the streets to industrial sites at the end of this week.

As protests and clashes with police intensified in the city of Novopolotsk, the refinery's general director Alexander Demidov said that "further development of the enterprises [of the refinery] would only be possible under stable conditions," and that workers were obliged not to "succumb to provocations."

Belarus sources most of its crude from Russia — it is scheduled to receive 5.75mn t (450,000 b/d) of pipeline crude from Russia in the third quarter — but has been diversifying its suppliers since flows from its eastern neighbour were briefly curtailed by a price dispute in the first quarter of this year. Belarus has received US and Saudi Arab Light crudes through Lithuania's Baltic Klaipedos Nafta terminal, for onward delivery by rail to Novopolotsk.