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Borrell urges EU to crack down on imports of Indian fuels made with Russian oil

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European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Christine Olsson/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

The European Union should crack down on India reselling Russian oil into Europe as refined fuels including diesel, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, said in an interview with the Financial Times.

India has emerged in the past year as a top buyer of Russian oil following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Access to cheap Russian crude has boosted output and profits at Indian refineries, enabling them to export refined products competitively to Europe and take a bigger market share.

Borrell will raise the issue with India’s foreign minister, S Jaishankar, when they meet on Tuesday, he told the newspaper.

“If diesel or gasoline is entering Europe … coming from India and being produced with Russian oil, that is certainly a circumvention of sanctions and member states have to take measures,” the EU’s chief diplomat said.

“That India buys Russian oil, it’s normal… But if they use that in order to be a centre where Russian oil is being refined and by-products are being sold to us…  we have to act,” Borrell said.

Indian refiners, which rarely bought Russian oil previously due to high transport costs, imported 970,000-981,000 bpd of it in 2022/23, accounting for more than a fifth of overall imports.

Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft ROSN.MM and top Indian refiner Indian Oil Corp IOC.NS have also signed a term deal to substantially increase and diversify oil grades delivered to India.

India typically exported an average of 154,000 barrels per day (bpd) of diesel and jet fuel to Europe before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, that has increased to 200,000 bpd after the EU banned Russian oil products imports from Feb. 5 this year, data from Kpler shows.

Any mechanism to stem the flow of Russian oil would need to be implemented by the national authorities, Borrell told the FT, suggesting that the EU could target buyers of Indian refined fuels which it believes are derived from Russian crude.

“If they sell, it is because someone is buying. And we have to look at who is buying,” he said.

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