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Turkey doubles Russian oil imports amid western sanctions

Turkey remains dependent on its Black Sea neighbour for energy supplies
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to set up a partial payment system for Russian gas in roubles (AFP)

Turkey doubled its imports of Russian oil this year, Reuters reported on Monday, underscoring how the two countries have deepened cooperation despite western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

According to numbers from Refinitiv Eikon, Turkey increased oil imports from Russia beyond 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, compared to just 98,000 bpd for the same period of 2021.

The rise in sales comes after a meeting earlier this month where Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to set up a partial payment system for Russian gas in roubles.

Russia has been forced to cut the price of its crude amid western sanctions. The discounted energy is a boost for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose economy is struggling under the weight of a currency crisis that has seen inflation skyrocket 80 percent. 

Turkey agrees to partial rouble payment system for Russian gas
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Turkey is one of several countries that have refused to agree to western sanctions to isolate Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine. While Ankara has sold armed drones to Ukraine, it has positioned itself as a mediator in the conflict. 

In July, Ankara helped broker a UN deal allowing for the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments from the Black Sea. 

The increase in oil sales underscores how Turkey sought to reap the benefits of maintaining ties with both sides of the conflict in Ukraine. 

Russia supplies Turkey with more than a third of its natural gas and more than half of its grain imports. Turkey’s tourism industry, which is a key source of hard currency, is also heavily dependent on Russian visitors who numbered seven million in 2019, the largest number from any country.

Recently, Russians looking to escape sanctions have been scooping up property in Turkey with the hope of acquiring citizenship.

Muhammet Yasir Taflan, an Istanbul-based lawyer who specialises in immigration through investment, told Middle East Eye that Russians have been driving the country’s citizenship-by-investment programme this year.

“Currently, nearly 60 percent of house sales to foreigners are done by Russians,” he said. “It was less than one percent last year.”

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