Zelenskyy urges dealer Vitol to stop shipping Russian ‘blood oil’ |  oil
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Zelenskyy urges dealer Vitol to stop shipping Russian ‘blood oil’ | oil

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the world’s largest independent oil trader to stop shipping Russian oil, accusing it of “brazen greed for blood oil”.

On behalf of the president, Oleg Ustenko, Zelenskyy’s chief economic adviser, asked Vitol to indicate when it will ship its last barrel of Russian oil and how much oil it will ship by that date.

Zelenskyy in March called on Vitol to end its business ties with Russia “to cut off the flow of money” that he said had funded “the mass murder of innocent people.”

The Geneva-based oil trader said in April that volumes of Russian oil handled will “decrease significantly in the second quarter as ongoing contract commitments decrease” and that it plans to “exit from the Russian market”. The transport of Russian crude oil is to be stopped by the end of the year.

But in a letter to Vitol chief executive Russell Hardy, seen by the Guardian, Ustenko said: “Those pledges are in tatters.”

Refinitiv shipments data compiled by Global Witness showed that Vitol, which employs former Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan and has offices in London near Buckingham Palace, made shipments of more than 11 million barrels of oil through ports in Russia in June has chartered.

Sir Alan Duncan is employed by Vitol. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Data shows that the energy trading company has chartered shipments of more than 38 million barrels of oil from Russian ports since the invasion began on Feb. 24 — valued at an estimated $3.21 billion and averaging more than 9 million barrels per month.

Ustenko said: “Vitol has been the largest western trader of Russian oil at sea since the February 24 full-scale invasion. This is brazen profiteering of blood oil funding the murder of Ukrainian civilians.”

Deliveries in June came from ports such as Ust-Luga near the Estonian border, St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea and Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. Deliveries reached European hubs, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, from where the oil might have been shipped to other countries.

In early June, a shipment of more than 1 million barrels of oil was chartered from Novorossiysk to Jamnagar, the Indian oil refinery. India has increased imports of Russian oil since the war began.

Sam Leon, Head of Data Discovery at Global Witness, said: “Since the invasion, Vitol has been a key Western enabler of Putin’s deadly fossil fuel trade. Only the toughest embargo on Russian oil will prevent them from benefiting at the expense of the Ukrainian people.”

The Vitol Group logo.
The Vitol Group logo. Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

In addition to exporting Russian oil, Vitol exports Kazakh crude oil and oil products through Russian ports.

Vitol said in April it would not enter into any new Russian crude oil and product deals.

The company said in a statement: “Vitol has reduced shipment volumes of Russian crude oil and products by approximately 80% since January 2022 and will continue to reduce these volumes through the end of the year.

“All Russian crudes or products shipped by Vitol fully comply with all applicable laws, regulations and sanctions including those of the EU, Switzerland, UK and US. Russian transactions that are subject to EU reporting are reported to the relevant authorities, with which Vitol has an open and transparent relationship.”

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Vitol has a stake in Vostok Oil, a huge arctic oil and gas oil project in Russia. Vitol said it has agreed to sell its shares and is “in the process of completing the legal paperwork” for the sale.

Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world after the US and Saudi Arabia. The US has banned Russian oil imports and Britain intends to phase them out by the end of this year.

Oil companies have been under pressure to sever ties with Russia since the war began. BP has promised to sell its stake in Russia’s state-backed Rosneft, while Shell is also selling its Russian assets. Last week, Vladimir Putin signed a decree that could force Shell to divest its stake in a giant Russian gas company.