A senior economic adviser to the Ukrainian president told Sky News that Russia’s purchase of fossil fuels had given “blood money” to Moscow which he said had resulted in “funding war crimes”.
Oleg Ustenko said Russia gets at least 40% of its revenue from oil and the money is used to support the war effort.
He said: “These weapons are being used by Russia to kill our people, to kill our citizens, to kill our children, to destroy our infrastructure, to destroy our cities.
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“It’s fucking money.
“Since this money is used to finance the war against Ukraine, we can say that it is a financing of war crimes.»
The Russian government denies all accusations of war crimes in Ukraine.
Mr Ustenko also urged the US and EU to further tighten sanctions to close all Russian ports to businesses and said it was important for businesses and governments to fully ensure they do not buy fossil fuel. , though unintentionally, which may be partly composed. of Russian oil.
Sea Dragon refueled at a Russian port
His comments came as a tanker, loaded with approximately 620,000 barrels of oil at a Russian port earlier this month, was scheduled to dock at ExxonMobil’s Fawley refinery in Southampton on Wednesday.
The tanker, called the Sea Dragon, sails under the Greek flag and is chartered by a subsidiary of TotalEnergies.
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According to shipping site MarineTraffic.com, Sea Dragon refueled at Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk on March 5th.
Onboard oil is referred to as crude brought in from Kazakhstan’s oil fields by Russia via the Caspian pipeline, but typically contains approximately 10% Russian oil.
The Caspian pipeline itself is also 24% owned by the Russian state.
Kazakh oil blending is currently not subject to international sanctions and there are no indications that companies associated with the Sea Dragon tanker and the ExxonMobil-operated Fawley refinery are doing anything illegal.
An ExxonMobil spokesman told Sky News: “We can confirm that the crude (aboard the Sea Dragon) is certified as of Kazakh origin. We respect all penalties.»
But experts warn that the Caspian pipeline could potentially provide a path for Russia to continue exporting its oil while hiding its sources, and for companies that could potentially exploit what constitutes a hole in international sanctions.
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The Black Sea is a “war zone”
Dr Agnia Gigas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and an expert in energy and geopolitics, told Sky News that Kazakh oil typically contains approximately 10-13% of Russia’s oil and that it is “almost impossible “to make the difference between the two once they are combined.
He said: “There is currently a great incentive to dismiss the oil of Russian origin as something else.»
He added that while pipeline managers are reportedly making efforts to more completely separate Russian oil from Kazakh oil, the simple dealings with Russian ports, terminals, traders and pipelines are contributing to a “primary source of funding” for the invasion of Ukraine.
He said: “The Black Sea is now a place of war.
“Rewarding Russia’s ports and terminals… is unforgivable.
“The United States should close all the holes for companies dealing with Russia’s oil infrastructure.
“European countries must begin to follow America’s lead. »
Ustenko said international companies should do more to verify the composition of the oil from the Caspian pipeline.
He said: “We have enough evidence that it could be blended oil, (that) part of the oil is Kazakh oil and the other part is Russian oil.
“Companies should send auditors to Russian ports.»
The British government has banned Russian-flagged tankers from British ports and has promised to end imports of all Russian oil by the end of the year.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said BEIS is aware of Sea Dragon but nothing more will be added outside of the published policy.
However, it is understood that the government intends to issue additional guidance providing more details on the subject of shipments that may contain oil from Russia.
“Can’t trust conglomerates to do the right thing”
Louis Goddard, spokesman for campaign group Global Witness, told Sky News that multinational oil conglomerates cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
He said: “If our regime’s sanctions are based on the honesty and transparency of these companies, Putin will continue to make money even if bombs fall on innocent civilians.
“We need a total embargo on Russia’s fossil fuels, and to end our reliance on these deadly energies by putting energy transfer on a foundation of war”.
TotalEnergies did not respond to requests for comment, but earlier this month its CEO Patrick Pouyanne said, “My traders have not taken oil from Russia since the crisis began.”
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The Sea Dragon is just one of dozens of tankers that have left Russia carrying oil and gas since the invasion began, many of which have headed for Europe.
The Seatribute tanker recently unloaded at Fawley, and another tanker – the Merbabu – will arrive in the UK in the coming days.