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China's imports of Russian oil increased 55% in May

China's imports of Russian oil increased 55% in May
China's imports of Russian crude oil rose 55% year-over-year to a record-high 8.42 million tons in May as oil prices have declined with Russia facing punitive measures over its invasion of Ukraine. File Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Sputnik/EPA-EFE

June 20 (UPI) -- China's imports of Russian crude oil hit record highs in May amid lower prices as Moscow faces import bans over its invasion of Ukraine.

The country's imports of Russian oil rose 55% year-over-year in May to 8.42 million tons, overtaking Saudi Arabia to become China's largest source of crude oil for the month, according to Chinese customs data released Friday.

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China's overall crude oil imports rose by 11.8% in May to 45.8 million tons year-over-year.

The surge in purchases also increased the value of total Russian crude imports to $5.8 billion in May, nearly double the value last year.

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An ESPO blend from the eastern port of Kozmino has made up most of the seaborne Russian crude oil being imported by China, Yen Ling Song, an associate director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said during a seminar earlier this month.

"Russia's seaborne shipments of crude oil to China rose for the fourth consecutive month in May to 1 million barrels per day and arrivals in June will continue," she said. "If the supply from Russia is stable, Chinese refiners are likely to continue to purchase, especially when the price is more advantageous to other grades, this is a very important factor."

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The United States in March imposed a ban prohibiting all U.S. sales and imports of Russian oil while the European Union approved a partial ban on Russian oil imports last month to place financial pressure on Moscow amid its invasion of Ukraine.

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China -- while maintaining neutrality on the war in Ukraine -- has repeatedly affirmed it plans to maintain its close partnership with Russia with Chinese President Xi Jinping praising the "high resilience and ingenious potential" of Chinese-Russian potential.

Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin also held a phone call on Xi's birthday last week.

The two nations have engaged in discussions to help China restock its national strategic petroleum reserves, Bloomberg reported in May.

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The United States has rebuked China and any other nations that have maintained close ties with Russia.

"Nations that side with Vladimir Putin will inevitably find themselves on the wrong side of history," a State Department spokesperson said.

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