Russian oil export revenues increased to $17.2bn (1.58trn rubles) in March 2024, thanks to higher global oil prices and increased crude export volumes, according to research carried out by the Kyiv School of Economics.

The report, known as the April Russian Oil Tracker, said that Russia continues to expand its shadow fleet by incorporating new tankers, evading robust US Treasury sanctions and the oil price cap.

In March, Russian seaborne oil exports rose by 4%, largely caused by a 12% increase in crude oil shipments, although exports of oil products declined by 6%. Russia’s largest customers included India, which increased crude imports by 3%, maintaining its position as the top importer of Russian crude oil. Turkey has been marking up around two-thirds of its oil demand through Russian oil product imports, with total imports exceeding 800,000 barrels per day.

In December 2022, Western nations placed a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian oil in an attempt to minimise Moscow’s revenue streams after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The price cap prohibits shipping, insurance and reinsurance companies from handling cargoes of Russian crude around the globe, unless it is sold for less than the price cap.

However, Russia has been accused of  using a shadow fleet to circumnavigate the sanctions. According to the report, only 36% of Russian oil exports in March were shipped by IG-insured tankers, with other ships being delivered by Russia’s shadow fleet. There were 223 tankers in the shadow fleet, 85% of which are 15 years old, heightening the risks of oil spills at sea.

According to the Times, the illegitimate fleet has travelled through the Strait of Dover, posing the risk of environmental damages to the English coast worth billions of pounds. The cost of a clean-up operation would likely fall upon UK taxpayers, the newspaper said.

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