Russia Continues to Export Oil to EU Despite Sanctions

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.16 - 2024 1:48 PM CET

Russian oil continues to flow into the EU via Turkey.

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An investigative report by Politico has uncovered ongoing shipments of Russian oil into the European Union, facilitated through a labeling loophole in Turkey.

This scheme has reportedly generated substantial revenue for Russia despite EU sanctions intended to curtail its fuel imports following the conflict in Ukraine.

Circumventing EU Sanctions

The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), along with Politico, have documented how Russian oil is entering the EU en masse by being relabeled in Turkey as non-Russian.

This tactic exploits a gap in EU sanctions that allows the import of "mixed" fuel, thereby enabling Russian oil to continue flowing into European markets under a different guise.

According to investigators, the scheme brought Moscow up to €3 billion from just three ports—Ceyhan, Marmara Ereglisi, and Mersin—in the 12 months following the EU's ban on Russian fuel in February 2023.

Turkey's Role in Russian Oil Exports

"Turkey has become a strategic stop for Russian fuel products diverted to the EU, generating hundreds of millions in tax revenue for the Kremlin’s military budget," Martin Vladimirov, senior energy analyst at CSD, told the publication.

During the year following the EU's ban on Russian fuel, Turkey increased its purchases of Russian oil by 105%, while its fuel exports to the EU surged by 107%.

While not all fuel exported from Turkey to the EU is of Russian origin—due to Turkey's substantial refining capacity—the data and geographic positioning of Turkish ports suggest a significant volume of Russian fuel is merely repackaged and sent to the EU.

Geopolitical Implications

The continuation of Russian oil exports to the EU via Turkey occurs amidst deteriorating relations between the EU and Turkey, partly due to Turkey's pro-Russian stance.

Despite aligning with American sanctions policies, Turkey has proposed becoming a gas hub for Russia and has absorbed large quantities of Russian oil since the conflict's onset.

This situation has prompted calls from EU officials for tighter measures to prevent sanction circumvention.

"We must tighten our measures and find ways to prevent sanctions from being circumvented. Third countries, especially our NATO allies like Turkey, must adhere as closely as possible to our sanctions," said the Estonian Foreign Minister in an interview with Politico.

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