Sanctions Fail: Britain Buying Up Indian Oil Made from Russian Crude

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 16, 2022. (Photo by Alexandr Demyanchuk / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDR DEMYANCHUK/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Britain is increasing purchases of Indian oil amid the Western sanctions war with Russia – but much of it is likely refined from Russian product sold to India at a discount.

While there is a general perception that Russia has become a pariah state since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with only the likes of Iran and North Korea allegedly offering covert support, many governments in Africa, Asia, and South America have largely stayed out of the West’s economic war with Moscow, including countries considered traditional allies such as Israel, India, and even NATO member Turkey.

Indeed, India took advantage of the slowdown in the energy trade, in particular, between Russia and the European Union early on in the conflict to ink a deal to purchase Russian oil at a significant discount — and Britain, one of the key cheerleaders for sanctions on Russia, has found itself stepping up purchases of that oil after it has been processed at Indian refineries, according to reports.

“The UK must close the loopholes that undermine support for Ukraine by allowing bloody fossil fuels to continue flowing across our borders,” complained Oleg Ustenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in comments quoted by The Telegraph.

The newspaper, which is close to Britain’s governing Conservative (Tory) Party, notes that India’s enormous Jamnagar refinery quadrupled shipments of Russian crude oil and fuel oil to 215 in 2022, with Britain importing 29 shipments — up from just seven — or refined products from Jamnagar since the invasion.

“[A]bout one in five barrels of the crude oil that they process is Russian,” explained Alan Gelder, a refining expert at the Wood Mackenzie energy, chemicals, renewables, metals, and mining industries research consultancy.

“[Indian refiners] have always exported to Europe, but they are exporting more now because it’s more attractive as Europe’s diesel prices are higher: it’s shorter of diesel because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.”

“A big chunk of that diesel they produce now will be based on Russian crude oil,” he added — although, perhaps helpfully for British buyers and politicians keen to appear as though sanctions are a success, the nature of the production process means it is near-impossible to quantify exactly how much product is Russian in origin.

The British government actually said it respected India’s decision to buy up discounted Russian oil in late March.

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