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Europe Imports Russian Oil Products via Turkey, Skirting Sanctions

recent report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) reveals that the European Union (EU) has imported EUR 3 billion worth of oil products from Turkish ports that predominantly handle Russian oil—ports that don’t have refining hubs.

This trade has effectively bypassed the EU/G7 sanctions on Russian petroleum products.

Since the implementation of the EU/G7 petroleum products ban on February 5, 2023, until the end of February 2024, the EU has sourced 5.16 million tonnes of oil products valued at EUR 3.1 billion from the Turkish ports of Ceyhan, Marmara Ere?lisi, and Mersin. These ports, lacking refining capabilities, imported 86% of their oil products from Russia during this period, turning Turkey into a significant re-export hub.

Turkey’s imports of Russian oil have surged nearly fivefold over the past decade. By 2023, Turkey became the largest global buyer of Russian oil products, importing 18% of Russia’s total exports. This reliance has grown from 52% in 2022 to 72% in 2023, indicating a deepening dependency on Russian refined products like diesel, gasoil, and jet fuel.

Investigations by CREA and CSD suggest that European entities may have been importing Russian oil products that are either mixed or re-exported from Turkish storage terminals. An example cited is the Toros Ceyhan oil terminal, which received 26,923 tonnes of gasoil from Novorossiysk in May 2023 and subsequently shipped a similar volume to Greece’s MOH Corinth refinery. This trade exploits legal loopholes, allowing blended Russian oil products to enter the EU.

The rerouting of Russian oil through Turkey has not only circumvented sanctions but also generated significant tax revenues for Russia, estimated at EUR 5.4 billion, supporting its war efforts in Ukraine. To address this, CREA and CSD recommend tightening EU legislation, enforcing strict rules of origin, and investigating shipments to prevent further sanctions evasion.

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