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Funding a war

Statesman News Service |

Fuel economics can be quirky not the least because Russia’s oil revenue has risen sharply despite the sanctions. Indeed, oil prices, according to a study, have more than offset a decline in export volumes during the first 100 days of the assault on Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered global condemnation and tough sanctions aimed at denting Moscow’s war chest. Yet Russia’s revenues from fossil fuels, by far its biggest export, soared to record highs in the first 100 days of its war on Ukraine, driven by a windfall from oil sales amid surging prices, a new analysis shows. Russia earned what is very likely a record 93 billion euros in revenue from exports of oil, gas and coal in the first 100 days of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, according to data analysed by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a research organization based in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. 

About two-thirds of those earnings, the equivalent of about $97 billion, came from oil, and most of the remainder from natural gas. “The current rate of revenue is unprecedented, because prices are unprecedented, and export volumes are close to their highest levels on record,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst who led the centre’s research. 

Fossil fuel exports have been a key enabler of Russia’s military buildup. In 2021, revenue from oil and gas alone made up 45 per cent of Russia’s federal budget, according to the International Energy Agency. 

The revenue from Russia’s fossil fuel exports exceeds what the country is spending on its war in Ukraine, the research centre estimated, a sobering disclosure as the momentum shifts in Russia’s favour as its forces focus on important regional targets amid a weapons shortage among Ukrainian soldiers. 

Ukrainian officials have again called on countries and firms to halt their trade with Russia completely. “We’re asking the world to do everything possible in order to cut off Putin and his war machine from all possible financing, but it’s taking much too long,” Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said in an interview from Kiev. 

Ukraine has also been tracking Russia’s exports, and Mr Ustenko described the research centre’s numbers as “seeming on the conservative side”. Still, the underlying finding was the same, he said: Fossil fuels continue to fund Russia’s war. “You can stop importing Russian caviar and Russian vodka, and that’s good, but definitely not enough. You need to stop importing Russian oil,” he said. That is easier said than done.