Using customs data from India, Mr. Vakulenko, the Russian oil expert, showed that local importers of Russian crude paid almost the identical price as Brent crude. A Latest York Times evaluation of the identical data produced similar results.
The reason, Mr. Vakulenko suggested, is that not less than a part of the big discount on the quoted Urals price had been pocketed by Russian exporters and intermediaries, who then charged a better price to the buyers in India.
This revenue is not going to accrue on to the Russian government in taxes, said Tatiana Mitrova, a Russian oil expert on the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. But since the Russian exporters probably have close ties to the Kremlin, a few of money might still support the war effort, she said.
“It’s an entire black box of funds,” she said.
Experts agree that in the long run, the long run of Russian oil revenues will likely be decided by global economic forces beyond the control of Western sanctions enforcers and Russian evaders.
They are saying global oil prices will remain the only biggest determinant of how much money the Kremlin will collect from a barrel of exported crude, despite the growing opacity of its trade.
And the fate of that price rests to a big extent on Russia’s ally China, whose economy is just starting to emerge from years of strict Covid restrictions. In December, China’s imports of crude oil hit a record of 16.3 million barrels a day, based on estimates by Kpler, a firm that tracks energy shipping. If the trend continues, it can strain global oil supplies and profit the Kremlin.
Adding to the upward pressure on oil prices, OPEC Plus, an alliance of Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said last Wednesday that it will maintain last yr’s restrictive output targets, which could strain oil supplies if demand grows.