Russia's state pipeline monopoly Transneft has ordered a cut in oil supplies to Belarus by 400,000 tonnes, or nearly one-quarter of previously planned deliveries for September, the firm and trading sources said on Wednesday.
Transneft cited environmental concerns as it said it needed to replace 700 km (440 miles) of old pipelines. "We have to speed up work as it is ecologically dangerous," vice-president Mikhail Barkov said.
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Oil traders said the order was completely unexpected.
It followed Belarus's arrest this week of the head of Russia's Uralkali , the world's top potash producer, in a row over the collapse of a sales alliance that has triggered a diplomatic spat with Moscow.
"It looks like we are heading for a new trade war again," one trader said.
(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Douglas Busvine)