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Exclusive: Poland seeks German support to sanction Russian Druzhba pipeline

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WARSAW (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Poland is seeking German support to impose EU sanctions on the Polish-German section of the Druzhba pipeline so Warsaw can abandon the deal to buy Russian oil next year without paying penalties, two sources close to the talks said.

The sources also said the pair were closing in on an agreement for Poland to coordinate seaborne oil supplies to Germany via Gdansk and part of Druzhba to facilitate Poland’s purchase of the Russian-owned Schwedt refinery in Germany.

The EU has pledged to stop buying Russian oil via sea lanes from December 5, but Druzhba is currently free from sanctions. This poses a problem for Polish refinery PKN Orlen, which has a long-term deal to purchase Russian oil via pipeline and would have to pay penalties to break the deal.

If the EU were to impose sanctions on Druzhba – or at least on its northern section which supplies Poland and Germany – both countries would be able to exit their Russian oil import commitments without penalty.

The southern section of the pipeline supplies Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic which, unlike Poland and Germany, would struggle to diversify their oil imports.

According to the sources, Poland’s climate ministry and Germany’s economy ministry are in the final stage of talks on a memorandum of understanding on oil logistics, which could unblock non-Russian flows and help Poland’s top refiner pursue its interest. in Schwedt.

Germany remains committed not to use Russian oil from 2023 and is working on a solution with Poland to secure Schwedt’s supply, an economy ministry spokeswoman in Berlin said on Friday. Meeting Poland and Germany’s pledges to stop buying Russian oil requires EU-wide regulation and both countries are working together to achieve this, Poland’s climate ministry said on Friday.

Germany has placed Schwedt under a six-month trusteeship, stopping short of nationalizing the refinery, and is looking for ways to supply it with oil.

Poland and Germany promised in the spring to try to end imports of Russian oil through northern Druzhba by the end of the year, but Orlen remains tied to her contract with Russian oil and gas company Tatneft.

The Polish refinery has nominated supplies for Druzhba for 2023 as stipulated in the contract, but these would stop if the pipeline is hit by sanctions, one of the sources said.

Orlen declined to comment on Friday.

The company has already reduced its dependence on Russian oil to 30% of its needs, replacing it with deliveries from Saudi Arabia and Norway, among others.

The Kommersant newspaper reported earlier this month that Orlen had applied to Russian pipeline operator Transneft to supply 3 million tonnes of oil to Poland through Druzhba in 2023.

Control over Schwedt, which also supplies western Poland, would increase Orlen’s refining capacity and control over the flows of oil and its products in the region with operations in Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Germany.

(Reporting by Marek Strzelecki; Additional reporting by Markus Wacket; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Louise Heavens and Alex Richardson)