Financing Putin’s war: Fossil fuel imports from Russia in the first 100 days of the invasion

Fossil fuel exports are a key enabler of Russia’s military buildup and brutal aggression against Ukraine.

To shed light on who purchases Russia’s oil, gas and coal, and how the volume and value of imports have changed since the start of the invasion, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has compiled a detailed dataset of pipeline and seaborne trade in Russian fossil fuels.

Key findings include:

Fossil fuels are filling Kremlin’s war chest

  • Russia earned EUR 93 billion in revenue from fossil fuel exports in the first 100 days of the war (February 24 to June 3). The EU imported 61% of this, worth approximately 57 billion EUR. 
  • The largest importers were China (EUR12.6bln), Germany (EUR12.1bln), Italy (EUR7.8bln), Netherlands (EUR7.8bln), Turkey (EUR6.7bln), Poland (EUR4.4bln), France (EUR4.3bln) and India (EUR3.4bln).
  • The revenue comprises an estimated EUR46bln for crude oil, EUR24bln for pipeline gas, EUR13bln for oil products, EUR5.1bln for LNG and EUR4.8bln for coal.

Russia’s export revenues have been falling since March, but remain record-high

  • Import volumes fell modestly in May, around 15% compared with the time before the invasion, as many countries and firms shunned Russian supplies. The reduction in demand and the discounted price for Russian oil cost the country approximately 200 million EUR per day in May. However, increase in fossil demand has created a windfall: Russia’s average export prices were an average 60% higher than last year, even if they were discounted from international prices.
  • China overtook Germany as the largest importer. China’s imports have been essentially constant while Germany has managed a modest reduction in oil imports from Russia.
  • Poland and the United States made the largest dents in Russia’s revenue. Lithuania, Finland and Estonia achieved sharp percentage reductions of more than 50%.
  • The record-high fossil fuel prices and the drive to reduce reliance on Russia have prompted increased ambition for clean energy and energy efficiency across Europe, which will effectively lessen the impact of banning imports from Russia. Spreading the most effective national policies across the bloc and beyond could substantially increase the impact.

India, Middle East, France and Belgium are dipping into discounted Russian fuels

  • India, France, China, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia increased imports. 
  • India became a significant importer of Russian crude oil, buying 18% of the country’s exports. A significant share of the crude is re-exported as refined oil products, including to the U.S. and Europe, an important loophole to close. 
  • European buyers, in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, bought most of the short-term cargoes at a discount, buying LNG and crude oil on the spot market. These purchases take place outside of pre-existing contracts, hence always representing an active purchase decision.

Most Russian fossil fuel is transported on European ships

  • As Russian oil is increasingly shipped to more distant markets, more tanker capacity than ever before is needed. This is a key vulnerability — strong sanctions against tankers transporting Russian crude would significantly limit the scope for this kind of rerouting of Russia’s exports. In April-May, 68% of deliveries of Russian crude oil were made with ships owned by EU, UK and Norwegian companies, with Greek tankers alone carrying 43%. For deliveries to India and the Middle East, the share was even higher at 80%. 97% of the tankers were insured in just three countries, UK, Norway and Sweden.

15 oil, power and industrial firms continued purchases in May while others might be exiting

  • In our previous analysis, we identified 23 large companies that bought Russian fossil fuels in the first two months of the war. 15 of these have continued purchases in May: oil companies Exxon, Shell, Total, Repsol, Lukoil, Neste, and Orlen; power utility companies Taipower, Chubu Electric Power, TEPCO and Trieste thermal power plant; and industrial companies Nippon Steel, POSCO, Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, and JFE Steel. Malaysia’s national electricity company TNB joined the list in May.
  • In contrast, some companies that had received several shipments before May, did not take further cargoes during the month. This includes Kyushu Electric Power, Tohoku Electric Power, KEPCO, Hyundai Steel, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi and Enagas. It’s not clear if they have terminated purchases or simply did not have deliveries in May.

You can read the full report in Ukrainian here or in English here.

Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst; Hubert Thieriot, Data Lead; Andrei Ilas, Guest Writer; Oleksii Mykhailenko, Guest Writer;