Friendship and war. Transit of Russian oil via Ukraine resumed — for how long?

August 15, 2022

On August 4, Ukraine stopped transit of Russian oil through the Druzhba (“Frienship”) oil pipeline. Deliveries of cheap Russian oil are highly important for countries such as Hungary and Slovakia, as it allows them to provide their population with cheap petrol. However, in the conditions of a war between the supplier and the transit country, one cannot count on stability of such deliveries.

On August 9, the Russian oil transport monopoly "Transneft" announced the suspension of oil transit to the EU through the southern branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline. Transit was stopped on August 4 due to payment problems. Oil transit through this branch passes across the territory of Ukraine to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czechia on the basis of a long-term contract between "Transnafta" and "Ukrtransnafta" under an agreement adopted in 2019 on the conditions of 100% prepayment.

According to Maksym Bielawski, the former PR director of Naftogaz and now an expert of the Razumkov Centre, problems with transit arose because the Russians unilaterally decided to change the mode of payment for transit and to charge in roubles. It is the scheme Putin tried to impose on Western companies to pay for gas.

Russia's "Gazprombank" opened a special rouble account for the "Transneft" company, where the funds went, to be transferred to a similar account of "Ukrtransnafta", also with "Gazprombank".

"Of course, Ukraine could not switch to such payment scheme and open an account with a bank of the aggressor country. After the payment under the old scheme did not come, the transit was stopped. However, the Russians expected that this would happen. They hardly thought that the final buyers would pay for the transit themselves," says Bielawski.

According to him, the Russians used the interruption of oil transit via Ukraine as an informational pretext for their propaganda, referring to the words of the Energy Minister adviser, Lana Zerkal, that Ukraine could use Druzhba oil pipeline as a tool of influence on Hungary.

Bielawski says that Russia tries to use such news hooks to put pressure on the policy of European countries on the gas market, so, the situation with the interruption of oil transit took place within the framework of an informational war.

"On August 10, the European Union finally stopped imports of Russian coal, there has been strong confrontation over the delivery of a turbine for Nord Stream-1 and an attempt to restart Nord Stream-2. The stoppage of transit may also be an element of a comprehensive strategy aiming to split the EU in the context of resource confrontation. The entire Russian elite are former KGB officers, and such actions are a usual tool of foreign policy for them," says Bielawski.

The expert also suggests that the stoppage of oil pumping could not but affect the consistency of oil supply to Ukraine. However, the Russians did not expect that the European counterparts would pay for the transit themselves.

Maksym Bielawski

Leading Expert, Energy Programmes

Born in 1986 in Zhytomyr oblast


Zhytomyr State Technological University (2008)

Ph.D in Technical Science (2010)

Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas (2012)

Author of 17 patents and 100 scientific works

Work Experience:

2008 – 2011 — Operator of Gas Infrastructure Units, Controller of Gas Transmission System in Rivne Division of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2011 – 2017 — Leading Engineer, Deputy Head of Press-Service, Head of Public Relation Department of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2017 – 2018 — HR Director of PJSC "Maine Gas Pipelines of Ukraine", Advisor to the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine

2021 — Director of Integrated Communications of NJSC "Naftogaz of Ukraine"