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19 Feb 2023

Global Witness

Shell & Vitol bring Russian-origin diesel into Europe, despite swearing off Russian oil, new investigation shows; incl. co. comments

Shell & Vitol bring Russian-origin diesel into Europe, despite swearing off Russian oil, 19 February 2023

Turkey has become Europe’s wide-open back door for Russian oil, with Turkish refineries and big oil traders maintaining the flow of crude and diesel around the EU’s embargoes. Even as countries implement sanctions that Ukraine hopes will reduce revenues to the Kremlin, Global Witness research reveals how Russian crude is taken from ports in the Baltic and the Black Sea to Turkish refineries, before being refined & imported into the EU by major traders. Those include Shell and Vitol, which have sworn off Russian oil.

Turkey imported Russian oil before the war, and it exported diesel to Europe too. But since the war made Russian oil comparatively cheap, Turkish refiners, under no legal restriction themselves, brazenly stepped up Russian crude imports. Even as Russia committed growing numbers of war crimes against the Ukrainian people, this trade continued to expand...

...[A]s of December, it became illegal to import Russian crude into the EU, and as of this February, Russian diesel imports also became illegal. As European embargoes loomed on the horizon, oil analysts noted a decrease in Turkish imports from Russia. And in early December, a source told Reuters that the SOCAR refinery was ‘’reviewing the situation in order to remain compliant with Western sanctions’’.

But Global Witness research shows that these bans are failing to quash Turkey’s appetite for Russian crude. This January, Turkey imported more than 10.1 million barrels of crude from Russia. The STAR refinery seems to have concluded its review, itself importing 3.2 million barrels of crude from Russia in January...

The players involved in this controversial route of the trade are familiar. Shell, the British oil major, which in March announced its ‘’intent to withdraw from its involvement in all Russian hydrocarbons… including crude oil & petroleum products’’, imported more than 600,000 barrels of refined products into the Netherlands from Turkish refineries running on Russian oil since the embargo came in. On a recently updated FAQ page, Shell says that it ‘’does not currently exclude purchasing products that have been refined from Russian crude … in third countries’’.

And Vitol, the largest private oil trader in the world, which counts former Tory foreign office minister Alan Duncan among its executives, brought 900,000 barrels into Latvia from the STAR and Tupras Izmit refineries since December 5. In April, Vitol told the Financial Times that it would not ‘’enter into any new Russian oil transactions and intends to cease trading Russian origin crude oil and product”. Vitol told Global Witness that it trades ‘’in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations’’...

Part of the following timelines

Ukraine: Global outrage over Russian invasion leads to sanctions, demands for businesses to divest

Ukraine invasion: Companies with interests in Russian oil & gas forced to reassess operations

Shell & Vitol allegedly deliver Russian oil to Europe through Turkey despite EU embargo, new investigation reveals; incl. cos. comments