Demands for Biden to sanction countries behind Putin energy lifeline

Putin reeling as EU slashes Russian gas import by half

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A senior Ukrainian lawmaker has demanded that US President Joe Biden impose sanctions of China and India for continuing to buy oil and gas supplies from Russia. Over the past year, the EU, the US, and other Western-aligned countries joined forces to sanction Russia, punishing President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine which began almost a year ago. While Europe has been phasing out its reliance on Russian natural gas, Putin has turned to the East, towards India and China. During a visit to Washington DC, Oleksandr Merezhko, the head of the foreign affairs committee in Ukraine’s parliament called for greater solidarity against Moscow.

Mr Merezhko also called for greater ties with Taiwan, which is a self-governing island democracy that China regards as a part of its own, AFP reports.

The Ukrainian lawmaker pushed back against criticism he received in Kyiv over his tough stance on China’s oil purchases from Russia, with some fearing that such a tough stance could lead to Beijing supporting Russia militarily.

He told reporters of the State Department Correspondents’ Association: “I’ve been trying to explain that this is not the problem. China is not afraid of Ukraine; China is afraid of American sanctions.

“Which means the United States can and should deter China from helping Russia and preferably introduce secondary sanctions to stop China from financing the Russian economy and the Russian military machine by buying Russian oil and gas.”

Mr Merezhko added that he had lived in New Delhi, and described India’s increase in Russian oil purchases as “painful”, however he also supported sanctions against Indian buyers.

He said: “They should be consistent. This is a global conflict between democracy — the free world — and authoritarian regimes. There shouldn’t be any compromise because of material economic interest.”

India has ramped up its crude oil imports from Russia, with New Delhi replacing Iraq as Moscow’s top recipient of oil in December last year. Buyers were snapping up shipments of Russian oil amid fears of a sharp price increase from December 5, which was when the oil price cap imposed by the European Union and G7 countries came into play.

Figures further revealed that New Delhi oil imports from Russia rose for the fifth consecutive month, reaching 908,000 barrels per day (bpd) last month, a four percent increase from October.

Data has shown that Russian oil exports to India have soared, as Moscow is now responsible for about 23 percent of New Delhi’s overall oil imports, which was about 4 million bpd in November.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India rarely purchased Russian oil due to costly logistics. However as Western countries shun Russian oil, India and China has quickly snapped up the supplies at discounted rates.

New Delhi has fiercely rejected demands to shun Russian exports, with the country’s energy minister saying that New Delhi would continue to source energy from Russia, despite G7 sanctions.

Over the past few years, Russia has also been ramping up exports of gas to China, as Gazprom exported 4.1 billion cubic metres of gas to China in 2020, rising to around 11 bcm in 2021 and expected to reach 22 bcm in 2023.

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Late last year, Gazprom, Moscow’s state-backed energy giant, announced that has begun testing a key supply hub that could reroute energy from Europe, allowing China to buy even more Russian gas.

The company announced that it has started testing the supply of gas from the Kovykta field, the largest in east Siberia, into the Power of Siberia pipeline that carries gas to China.

Russia has also announced the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the £8billion project that was set to pump gas to Europe through the Baltic Sea will now be replaced by a new pipeline which will export huge amounts of gas to China.

During a visit to Uzbekistan last year, Moscow’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak noted that Russia and China will soon sign an agreement that would deliver about 50 bcm of gas per year through the future Force 2 pipeline in Siberia.

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