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“The Market Is Starting To Fail”: Buyers Balk At Russian Oil Purchases Despite Record Discounts, Sanction Carve Outs

“The Market Is Starting To Fail”: Buyers Balk At Russian Oil Purchases Despite Record Discounts, Sanction Carve Outs

While in their unprecedented broadside of sanctions on Russia, the U.S. and Western allies went out of their way to spare Russian energy shipments and keep economies humming and voters warm, the oil market has gone on strike anyway. Acting as if energy were already in the crosshairs of Western sanctions officials, refiners have balked at buying Russian oil and banks are refusing to finance shipments of Russian commodities, the WSJ reports citing traders, oil executives and bankers.

This self-imposed embargo which has effectively halted a majority of Russian oil shipments, threatens to drive up energy prices globally by removing a gusher of oil from a market that was tight even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia, waging war and in need of revenue with its financial system in turmoil, is taking extreme steps to convince companies to buy its most precious commodity.

We previously reported that owners of oil tankers had already started to avoid Russian ports because of both the military invasion of Ukraine and apprehension that sanctions for oil could also come soon, and as a result rates for oil tankers on Russian crude routes had exploded as much as nine-fold in the past few days.

But now, amid growing fears they will fall afoul of complex restrictions in different jurisdictions, refiners and banks are balking at purchasing any Russian oil at all, traders and others involved in the market say. Market players also fear that measures that target oil exports directly could land as fighting in Ukraine intensifies.

“This is going to make it very complex to trade with Russia,” Sarah Hunt, a partner at law firm HFW who works with commodities traders, said of the sanctions laid out as of Monday. “These sanctions against Russia will have an incredible effect on global trade and on trade finance.”

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