South Africa plans to buy Russian oil, which means a potential victory for Putin


South African officials are openly considering importing Russian oil to bring down record fuel prices, a move that would help Moscow circumvent sanctions imposed by Western powers for its invasion of Ukraine.

Gwede Mantashe, minister of mineral resources and energy, said in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday that it was time for South Africa to turn to Russia for its fuel needs. Mantashe’s remarks, which were greeted with applause, point to the possible limits of economic compression efforts as fuel prices continue to soar.

“We should consider importing cheap crude oil from Russia because it’s not sanctioned,” Mantashe said.

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the United States and the European Union punished Russia with harsh sanctions that targeted its lucrative oil and gas sectors.

Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s minister for mines and energy, said the country should consider importing crude oil from Russia. Above, Mantashe speaks at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on May 9, 2022.
RODGER BOSCH/Getty Images

As a result, energy prices have skyrocketed. The average price per barrel of crude oil climbed $101 in April 2022, more than $30 higher than the annual average in 2021, according to Statista.

South Africa’s Department of Finance extended the fuel tax exemption in June to help residents of the country cope with record prices, reports the Cape Town newspaper Independent Online. Vacations will be halved in July, putting pressure on leaders to find a more lasting solution, the outlet reports.

Mondli Gungubele, South Africa’s minister for the presidency, told reporters last week that the government had not ruled out buying Russian oil if it could drive down fuel prices, fin24 reports.

Speaking in parliament, Mantashe said the sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU “have led to a major imbalance between demand and supply” for oil. He said rising energy prices had fallen disproportionately in developing countries and warned it could trigger a global recession.

As Russia has faced backlash for invading Ukraine, African nations have been less willing to give Moscow the cold shoulder. In March, South Africa abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Other African countries continued to look to Russia for grain imports despite sanctions. Putin hosted Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union, at his residence in Sochi earlier in June to discuss ending the blockades, despite warnings from the United States.

As global oil prices rose, the Kremlin ignored US and EU sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month that the sanctions would not hurt the country’s budget.

China and India, two major energy-dependent nations, continued to buy Russian oil, helping to soften the effect of the sanctions.

Newsweek contacted the State Department for comment.


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