Ukraine calls for tougher sanctions at Russian ports

Tankers around the world, including several chartered by US-based companies, continue to transport millions of barrels of oil out of Rus...

Tankers around the world, including several chartered by US-based companies, continue to transport millions of barrels of oil out of Russian ports, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president said, as he called on the White House to restrict any trade in Russian oil by American companies.

In an interview from Kyiv overnight Tuesday, Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, also urged CEOs of Western oil and gas companies to pledge not to manage Russian oil and to hire accounting firms independents to verify that no Russian oil is loaded on their ships.

“We are talking about supplying Russia with blood money which they are using to fuel a military machine that is killing my people,” Mr Ustenko said. “We need a full embargo, a full boycott. All Russian ports must be closed.

Complicating the situation is the fact that one of Russia’s main oil terminals, the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, is a hub for a pipeline that carries oil from neighboring Kazakhstan that is blended with Russian oil, according to pipeline operators. Experts say this can make it difficult to determine the origin of the oil.

Continued oil trade from places like Novorossiysk – largely with Europe, which relies heavily on oil and gas imports from Russia – highlights the loopholes that allow Russian producers to continue to trade. export their oil, Ustenko said, and even profit from it. high world oil prices, which rose sharply after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr. Ustenko said American companies were encouraging this trade. He cited as an example an oil tanker chartered by Chevron, the American oil giant, which left Novorossiysk on Friday carrying nearly 100,000 tonnes of crude and is currently en route to the Netherlands. According to independent shipping data, the tanker, the Mediterranean Voyager, is carrying a mixture of crude oil.

Separate data collected by Ukraine on vessels under contract to load oil into Russian ports over the next two weeks included at least five other tankers chartered by Chevron.

In a statement, Chevron said the oil on board the ship came from Kazakhstan and that “the company’s efforts are being conducted in accordance with US law.” The company added that “access to Kazakh energy supplies remains very important for consumers around the world.” Chevron also said it has no exploration or production operations in Russia.

President Biden bans new US imports of Russian oil, gas and coal in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But these rules do not prohibit the shipment of oil, Russian or otherwise, from Russian ports to destinations in other countries. Still, Mr Ustenko said the trade violated the spirit of the embargo and he urged the White House to ban US companies from handling Russian oil and gas exports, regardless of their destination.

Biden administration officials have pointed out that Washington’s restrictions go far beyond those of other countries, including key US allies in Europe, which have yet to halt energy imports. Europe is particularly dependent on Russian gas and could face debilitating energy shortages if it cuts off all supplies. Much of the world has also imposed severe financial restrictions on Moscow.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said the United States was able to implement its fossil fuel embargo, in addition to a series of other restrictions on Russian commercial activity, “thanks to our strong national energy infrastructure” and would deprive Russian President Vladimir V. Putin of the resources he needed to wage war in Ukraine. But Washington also recognizes “that not all of our allies and partners are currently in a position to join us,” she said.

In recent days, many Western oil and gas companies have also declared that they cease operations in Russia, including the abandonment of joint ventures with public producers. And some major carriers said they would no longer carry Russian oil or gas, and traders reported fewer takers.

Still, Ukraine estimates that Russian ports will continue to ship at least 1.5 million barrels of crude oil and other petroleum-based products daily in the coming weeks – a significant drop from four to five million barrels of crude they typically handled before the invasion, but enough to earn Russian producers around $700 million a day. Oil, gas and coal make up the vast majority of Russian exports.

Mr Ustenko criticized Greek shipping companies, in particular, which he said own many tankers that continue to transport oil from Russian ports. He called on the Greek government to ban these shipments, and he also called on the German government to steer the European Union towards a physical boycott of oil and to stop paying Russia for gas, placing funds in an account instead. receivership to be paid once Russia sued. for peace.

Simon Johnson, an economics professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, said the shipments revealed a major weakness in the US embargo by allowing Russians to take advantage of rising oil prices. oil and “get a windfall”. earn on their trade.

To stem this trade, Washington needed to impose comprehensive sanctions – similar to those currently imposed on Iran – that would ban US-based companies from trading with Russia. “The the only way to deal with that is to make sure they don’t export anything,” Mr Johnson said. “It’s not complicated.”

Energy experts have warned that blended oil from the Novorossiysk pipeline could potentially provide a pathway for Russian producers to continue moving oil to world markets with the origins of the product obscured. According to the pipeline operators, over the past two decades it has typically transported a mixture of approximately 13% Russian oil. The consortium that owns the pipeline is 24% owned by the Russian state.

Agnia Grigas, senior researcher at the Atlantic Council and an expert on energy and geopolitics in Eastern Europe, said the spirit of the US import ban should already prevent companies Americans to trade in this oil. “It is almost impossible to distinguish the origin of the oil particles,” she said.

“If this oil was purchased from Russian traders, the implications are the same,” she added, as the net effect would be that Russian traders would profit from the transactions.

Biden administration officials have said that while the United States has tried to lead by example, it has refrained from disrupting the energy needs of other countries, for example by banning American companies from delivering Russian oil to these countries. country.

The turmoil in oil and gas markets has prompted calls for a faster transition to renewables like wind and solar. Mr Ustenko said the crisis could ultimately spur more investment in green energy. “In the long run, everyone will benefit,” he said.

Public censorship of companies that continue to trade with Russia has been swift. Earlier this month, Royal Dutch Shell bought a shipment of Russian oil at a steep discount of just under $30 a barrel and was forced to quickly commit to no future purchases.

In a televised address in Ukraine on Tuesday, President Zelensky called on people around the world to boycott Russian products. “It’s all in your power,” he said. “All business with Russia must be stopped. On Wednesday, he made a direct appeal to the United States Congress by video.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Ukraine calls for tougher sanctions at Russian ports
Ukraine calls for tougher sanctions at Russian ports
Newsrust - US Top News
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