How Turkey became Putin’s ‘pit stop’ for selling camouflaged fuel to the EU

By Victor Jack | 05/17/2024 06:49 AM EDT

Moscow bagged €3 billion through a sanctions loophole that allows Turkey to relabel Russian oil and ship it to the EU.

Vladimir Putin observes military ceremony.

A workaround illustrates the creative ways Russia is circumventing EU sanctions to protect its fossil fuel trade.  Pool photo by Maksim Blinov

BRUSSELS — On a balmy spring day last May in southern Turkey just 60 kilometers from the Syrian border, a tanker the length of two football fields pulled into the Toros Ceyhan terminal ready to pick up fuel.

Loaded with 150,000 barrels of gasoil — a fuel largely the same as diesel — the ship then departed on a three-day journey toward the Motor Oil Hellas refinery in southern Greece.

Ostensibly, the fuel was Turkish; Athens insists it doesn’t accept Russian-labeled cargoes, in compliance with an EU prohibition. But new research and reporting shows the shipment was likely just that: Russian oil hidden with new markings.


That’s part of a much broader trend, according to research from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Center for the Study of Democracy think tanks, as well as independent reporting from POLITICO. Russian oil, it seems, is arriving en masse to the EU via Turkey.