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WSJ: The West is still buying Russian oil, but it’s harder to track now

A Russian tanker detained by Greece last week and reportedly carrying Iranian oilwas released due to confusion over sanctions against its owners, informs Reuters agency.

Like Athens News reported April 21in accordance with an order issued by the Hellenic Anti-Money Laundering Authority, the Russian tanker “Pegas”, which was arrested by the Greek authorities last Friday and was moored in the port of Karystos, released due to lack of claims. At the time of publication, the tanker is in the roadstead near the port of Karystos, and a Greek tugboat is standing nearby.

What happened and how the Pegas tanker ended up in the sale scheme Russian Iranian oil abroad.

American edition of The Wall Street Journal published material, in which he spoke about the scheme according to which the West is still buying Russian oil, but in order to make it more difficult to trace, the so-called. an opaque market designed to hide the origin of Russian oil.

Do not think that the scheme is so terribly secret. It’s just that sanctions, as it turned out, are quite easy to manage.

Author WSJ Anna Hirtenshtein writes the following: In recent weeks, Russia has boosted oil supplies to key customers, challenging its “pariah status in global energy marketsOne of the increasingly popular delivery methods: tankers marked “destination unknown”.

According to, Oil exports from Russian ports to the European Union, historically the largest buyers of Russian oil, rose to an average of 1.6 million barrels per day in April. Exports fell to 1.3 million a day in March after invasion of Ukraine . Similar data from Kpler, another commodity data provider, showed flows rose to 1.3 million a day in April from 1 million in mid-March.

But an opaque market is being formed to hide the origin of this oil. Unlike how Russia invaded Ukraine, oil buyers concerned about the reputational risk of crude oil trading that finances the government which Western leaders accuse of war crimes .

Oil from Russian ports is increasingly sent to an unknown destination. According to, more than 11.1 million barrels were loaded into tankers without a scheduled route in April, more than any other country. This is more than before the invasion!.

One reason the origins of Russian oil are hidden is because countries desperately need oil to keep their economies going and keep fuel prices from rising further. But companies and oil brokers want to trade them quietly, avoiding any retaliation for facilitating deals that ultimately provide money for Moscow’s war machine.” emphasizes the author.

“According to analysts and traders, the use of a label with an unknown destination is a sign that oil is being transported to larger ships at sea and offloaded. Russian oil is then mixed with ship cargo, eroding its place of origin. an old practice that allowed exports from sanctioned countries such as Iran and Venezuela.

Traders say the market is also offering new grades of petroleum products dubbed “Latvian blend” and “Turkmen blend” with the understanding that they contain significant amounts of Russian oil.

The sale of oil to Russia is the lifeblood of the economy and government spending. The country is trying hard sell oil at the same volumes and prices as before the war .

USA, UK, Canada and Australia banned the import of Russian oil. However EU more dependent on Russian energy, importing 27% of its oil from Russia. European leaders also discussed the embargo but have yet to take action as they balance the desire to isolate Russia without hurting their own economy through higher energy prices.

Despite the absence of sanctions, many European energy companies introduced self-restraint in the weeks following the invasion, as bank financing for deals dried up and insurance costs skyrocketed. Export of oil from Russia decreased in March (officially natural. Note ed.) which led to an increase in internalx stocks and decrease in production volumes at some refineries.

Most Russian oil is still clearly labeled on shipping documents. The volume of oil going to Romania, Estonia, Greece and Bulgaria, this month more than doubled from the March average. Volumes also rose significantly for the Netherlands, Europe’s biggest buyer, and Finland.

Some buyers are rushing to close businesses in anticipation of potential new restrictions, while others say they are allegedly closing deals made before the invasion. Sanctions will force them to break these contracts (in the distant future, apparently. Approx. Ed.).

“The fact that they are buying more than before the invasion suggests that it’s not just because of long-term contracts,” said Simon Johnson, an MIT economics professor who researches oil geopolitics and a former chief economist at the International Monetary fund. “This also applies to cheap energy. Until there is a total embargo, this can continue.”

In recent weeks, major oil companies and trading houses, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Repsol SA , Exxon mobile Corp., Eni Spa , Trafigura Group and Vitol Group, have chartered vessels for the transport of crude oil from Russian oil terminals on the Black and Baltic Seas to ports. in the European Union, according to Global Witness, a research and advocacy group working with the Ukrainian government, and data from Refinitiv. The shipments arrived in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands this month, according to the data.

A Repsol spokesman said the recent shipments were due to long-term commitments made before the invasion. Shell, Exxon and Eni said they were transporting oil from Kazakhstan through a Russian port. Trafigura said it was selling less Russian oil than before the invasion. Vitol did not respond to a request for comment.

On April 7, Shell said it would stop buying Russian oil on the spot market, but was legally required to accept crude oil due to contracts signed prior to the invasion. The company defines oil products of Russian origin if blends contain 50% or more, leaving the door open for trading in products such as diesel fuel if it contains 49.9% or less Russian oil.

On April 13, the Ukrainian government sent a letter to Shell CEO Ben van Beurden criticizing this approach, saying “the notion that any company would continue to fund Putin’s war machine through an accounting ploy is deplorable.”

“This is a national shame for many governments and institutions that finance this aggression against us,” said Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to the President of Ukraine.

A Shell spokesman said the company’s “self-imposed restrictive measures go well beyond any European Union measures in place today.”

EU officials are developing a plan for a potential embargo, but the timing is still being discussed due to upcoming elections in France and opposition from Germany. The embargo is likely to be introduced only over time. Some fear that traders are already developing ways to keep oil flowing.

“Even if we see some kind of oil embargo from the EU, will they forget to impose sanctions on tankers? An increase in the number of transfers from one ship to another is a reasonable expectation,” Mr. Johnson said.

— Benoît Faucon contributed to this article”, Anna Hirtenstein sums up her material.

Now, do you understand what the Pegas tanker was doing with “Iranian” oil off the coast of Greece? And why the conflict was resolved so quickly. I wonder if the detention of the tanker was really a mistake or a private initiative of someone from the coast guard who wanted to cut money from the ship owner? Well, the important factor is Greek tankers involved in transportation Russian Iranian oil. This is not the kind of business that can be touched without hitting anyone …

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