Pay in yuan, receive in arms and buy from India. How Russian oil tankers are circumventing sanctions

More and more oil tankers are turning off identification systems to transfer Russian oil undetected. And, so that there is no trace of the transaction, European countries will be paying in yuan, probably to India, for the oil that Europe does not want to buy to harm the economy of Moscow.

India has increased its Russian oil imports in recent months as Europe seeks to reduce energy dependence on Moscow; the increase in Indian imports, however, makes one suspect that India is buying Russian oil at a discount to send it to Europe.

In May, India imported about 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Russia, and the Fitch agency predicts that this number could quickly reach one million barrels a day, 20% of total Indian imports.

Sources cited by The Guardian admit that it is very difficult to monitor Russian oil shipments arriving in Europe via India, not least because oil tankers use various tactics to make themselves invisible and transactions are carried out in a way that does not arouse suspicion.

Financially, this concealment is done by paying Russian oil in yuan, not least because the exchange of Chinese currency and Russian rubles has been rising steadily since February, the month in which the Kremlin decided to invade Ukraine, without China taking a stand against it. the offensive and without expressing opposition to Moscow, a long-time ally.

As an alternative to using the yuan, sellers will also be exchanging Russian oil for goods such as gold, food or even weapons.

Cargo transfers between vessels have also increased, suggesting that oil is being switched from Russian tankers to tankers flying the flags of other countries. And more and more oil tankers are turning off identification systems as oil is transferred offshore.

Greece, Cyprus or Malta have also doubled the amount of Russian oil they send since the war began, and Russian oil products are likely to end up in the United States, Business Insider adds.

discount oil

“Indian refiners are clearly receiving significant volumes of Russian crude at a discount and re-exporting a material proportion of refined product out of the country,” Craig Howie, an analyst at Shore Capital, a financial services firm based in India, told the Guardian. in the United Kingdom. “The commercial rationale here is naturally understandable, but it seems to run counter to the West’s clear objective of hampering the Russian economy and the war machine,” the analyst adds.

With the war dragging on in Ukraine, Russian oil tankers transporting crude oil and petroleum products are even disappearing more and more from monitoring systems: the shady activity of Russian-linked oil tankers has increased by 600% compared to what took place before the start of the war.

Most of these transfers take place in waters where the risk of oil spills is drastically reduced. The exchanges used to take place off the coast of Denmark, but recently they have been observed in the Mediterranean Sea north of Ceuta or in the North Sea near Rotterdam. More recently, they were detected almost in Portuguese waters, off the Azores.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission approved at the end of May an embargo on Russian oil, which provides for the cut of 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of the year. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, however, came to say that the measure is “politically motivated, not economically” and that it will affect European consumers first.

The Kremlin spokesman even underlined that if demand decreases in some places, it will increase in others, so Russia will never sell oil “at a loss”.

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