Russia says pipeline shut over contamination will restart mid-May

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Moscow (AFP)

Russian oil will resume pumping through a key pipeline to Europe by the middle of May, Moscow energy minister Alexander Novak said Tuesday, after deliveries were halted last month due to contamination.

Four people have been arrested as part of an investigation into the poor quality of the oil supply.

"Investigations revealed a group of companies was carrying out illegal activity" and introducing non-approved oil into the system with excess chlorine compounds, Novak said.

Stricter measures would be in place from now on, he added in comments carried by news agencies.

The delivery of Russian oil through the major "Druzhba" ("Friendship") pipeline was interrupted on April 25.

The pipeline crosses from Russia into Belarus and then branches off, with some oil going towards Poland and Germany and some towards Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian officials met in Minsk last month to discuss the poor quality of the supply.

"The normalisation of the situation" is expected in the first half of the month, Novak said, with cleaning of the pipeline already under way.

On May 2, the national Belarusian oil company reported receiving clean oil from the Druzhba pipeline.