Espreso. Global

UK accused of 'helping Russia pay for its war against Ukraine' through oil imports

25 April, 2024 Thursday

According to the data analyzed by news site Desmog, 2.2 billion pounds of oil processed in China, India and Turkey, countries to which Russia supplies crude oil, was imported in 2023


The UK is accused of "helping Russia pay for its war against Ukraine" by continuing to import record amounts of refined oil from countries that process the Kremlin's fossil fuels, The Guardian reports.

Government data analyzed by environmental news website Desmog reveals that refined oil imports from India, China and Turkey amounted to £2.2bn in 2023.

Russia is the largest supplier of crude to India and China, while Turkey has become one of the biggest importers of Russian oil since the Kremlin launched its full-scale war against Ukraine in February 2022.

This comes at a time when Russia is increasingly attacking Ukrainian energy infrastructure, of which only a few important power plants have not yet been damaged or destroyed. 

Ukraine's allies pledged to divest from Russian oil and gas in response to the 2022 invasion. The UK officially banned the import of Russian oil products from December 2022. However, a gap in the legislation has allowed Russian oil to continue to come into the UK.

While Russian oil is refined in another country, it is no longer considered originating in Russia, allowing it to circumvent the trade ban. As a result, Russian oil is sold to allied countries for processing before being shipped to the UK.

The campaign group Global Witness has described this process as 'whitewashing' that is weakening Ukrainian resistance to Russia.

Lela Stanley, senior researcher at Global Witness, said: "Millions of barrels of fuel made from Russian oil continue to flow into the UK. Last year alone, this trade was worth more than £100 million to the Kremlin. Make no mistake: until the government closes this loophole, Britain is helping Russia pay for its war against Ukraine."

"The good news? We can fix it. The UK must act now to ban the import of fuels made from Russian oil and show that its support for Ukraine is sincere."

Global Witness has estimated that some 5.2 million barrels of refined petroleum products produced from Russian crude oil were imported into the UK in 2023, with jet fuel comprising the largest share of imports (4.6 million barrels). It is estimated that Russian-origin fuel has been used on one in 20 UK flights.

UK government records show that direct oil imports from Russia fell from £1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022 to zero the following year.
This led to a rise in fossil fuel imports from authoritarian petrostates. The UK was spending £19.3 billion on oil and gas imports from Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates up to March 2023, an increase of 60 per cent on the previous year.

In addition to buying fossil fuels from petro-states, the UK and the EU have been buying Russian refined oil through countries such as India, China and Turkey.

Global Witness found that the EU imported 130 million barrels from refineries processing Russian crude in 2023. The campaign group estimated that these purchases would likely have brought the Kremlin €1.1bn (£940m) in tax revenues.

Russia is now China's largest supplier of crude oil, with a 24% increase in trade volume in 2023 from the previous year.

India has not been shy about its purchases of Russian oil. In November, the country's foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said India was to be thanked for "softening the oil markets" by buying and selling Russian oil. "We have, as a consequence, actually managed global inflation. So people should be saying thank you," he said.

Russia is India's largest supplier of oil, accounting for 40 per cent of its imports. 

Turkey has also been accused of "camouflaging" Russian oil and exporting it to Europe. US senators have even warned that oil supplied by Turkey's Dörtyol plant could have ended up on US warships. Turkey is currently the third-largest recipient of Russian crude oil, after Russia and China.

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