The war in Ukraine today has led the Western world to condemn Moscow by imposing an embargo on Russian oil imports, unlike Turkey, which has announced a doubling of its imports

Doubling of Russian oil imports to Turkey: a boon for Moscow

AFP/VYACHESLAV PROKOFYEV - Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) during a meeting in Sochi, 5 August 2022

The Russian offensive in Ukraine, which began on 24 February, is a catalyst for many issues and highlights the limits of European energy dependence on Russian hydrocarbons. In this context, the European Union has voted a series of sanctions packages designed to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine. Among them, Brussels has imposed an embargo on Russian oil, which is leading the EU to diversify its energy supplies. Nevertheless, some countries, such as Turkey - a non-EU member whose favourable relations with Moscow have been known for a long time - announced on Monday 22 August a doubling of its Russian oil imports, according to data from Refinitv Eikon. 


Indeed, there appears to be an increase in Russian oil imports by Turkey, taking the trade from 98,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year to 200,000 barrels per day this year. This increase in imports was made possible by the largest oil refinery company Tupras, which absorbed a share of Russian oil reserves located in the Urals region. Moreover, the many Turkish refiners also imported light oil from Siberia. While in recent years Turkey had employed an energy diversification strategy by importing oil from Norway via the Norwegian Joahan Sverdrup oil field or via the Iraqi Kirkuk field, this year Russian oil prices were so exceptionally low that Turkey reduced its purchases from these regions in order to strengthen its trade with Moscow. This is reflected, among other things, in the meeting earlier this month of the two presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, who reiterated their desire to strengthen their trade cooperation in the coming months.


According to Refinitiv Eikon's forecasts, Turkey's STAR refinery is expected to buy around 90,000 barrels of oil from Russia between January and August 2022 compared to 48,000 barrels during the same period last year and the refineries run by Tupras will buy around 111,000 shelves of oil from Russia between January and August 2022 compared to 45,000 during the same period last year. Thus, it appears that "the choice for Turkish refiners was obvious because they have no limits to the purchase of Russian oil" according to the words of a trader in the Mediterranean oil market collected by the British news agency Reuters. 

Described as a "special military operation", the Russian offensive in Ukraine has thus re-configured the world oil market, with a European Union eager to ensure respect for the values of human rights protection that it intends to defend and a Turkey, at the gates of Europe, which did not insist on sanctioning Russia for its actions in Ukraine and which is speeding up its trade in energy with Moscow, while asserting that it remains independent of Russian energy supplies.