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India Denies Sanctions Hold Back Imports of Russian Crude Oil

India’s lower imports of Russian crude oil in recent weeks were the result of unattractive discounts, not because of payment issues amid tougher U.S. sanctions on Russia’s exports, Indian Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday.  

“There is no payment problem,” Puri told a briefing in New Delhi on Wednesday, as quoted by Bloomberg.

“It is a pure function of price at which our refiners will buy,” he said, adding that India’s priority is to ensure the cheapest price possible for its consumers.

The tougher enforcement of the G7 sanctions and related payment issues have been holding up Indian purchases of some cargoes of Russian crude oil, with tankers previously headed to India now turning back eastwards, tanker-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg showed on Tuesday.

At the end of last year, the United States took a tougher stance on the sanctions against Russia and sanctioned several vessels for violating the G7 price cap of $60 per barrel, above which cargoes cannot use Western insurance and financing. Some of those tankers were already en route to India loaded with Russia’s Sokol grade and departed from the Far Eastern ports in Russia.  

According to the ship-tracking data Bloomberg has compiled, five tankers carrying Sokol were headed to India last month. But now all five – the NS Commander, Sakhalin Island, Krymsk, Nellis, and Liteyny Prospect – are headed away from India and on to the Malacca Strait, suggesting that India wouldn’t be taking those purchases after all.

A sixth tanker, the NS Century, which has been idling off Sri Lanka for months caught up by the sanctions, is still in that area, according to the data.

As of the end of November, India was still considering whether to allow the now-sanctioned tanker carrying Russian oil to approach and dock at one of its ports—a sign that the U.S. clampdown on Russian crude trade could limit India’s ability to buy and import cheaper oil.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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