These major European airlines are ‘fueling’ Ukraine war by buying Russian jet fuel, new report says

New data has revealed which European airlines have been buying the most jet fuel from Russia.

The report says IAG, the owner of British Airways, bought the most at 586 barrels a day in 2021. That is a total annual spend of almost $ 16.5 million (€ 16.3 million).

It was followed by Scandanavian Airlines (SAS) at 308 barrels a day with the carrier having the highest percentage of Russian fuel in its mix. Wizz Air, easyJet and Ryanair round out the top five.

It is the first time detailed information on the country of origin of the jet fuel used by major airlines has been made public.

“European airlines and Russian oil are undoubtedly linked,” says Jo Dardenne, Aviation Director at campaign group Transport and Environment in Brussels.

“Witnessing the horrors of Putin’s war on Ukraine, how can we continue to buy aviation fuel that’s helping to fund it? Nor should we replace Russian oil with fuel from other problematic states.”

How much money has been spent on Russian jet fuel?

In the five years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, European airlines doubled their spending on Russian jet fuel to over $ 1 billion (€ 988 million) in 2019.

Specialist oil market consultancy company Energy Aspects looked at the official figures for oil product imports, oil tanker tracking to key import hubs and the location of specific airports on the European jet fuel pipeline network.

This was then used to rank European airlines on how much Russian oil is in their jet fuel. The data came from the 10 years leading up to 2021, including average jet fuel prices to give an estimate of how much money was spent.

Ukraine asks people to stop using Russian fossil fuels

Earlier this year, a key advisor to Ukraine’s Prime Minister wrote an article for UK newspaper the Guardian telling people to “not fly on an airline that uses jet fuel made from Russian oil”.

Ukraine has been urging governments, consumers and companies in the five months since the invasion to stop using Russian oil.

“Companies that source commodities and oil products from Russia risk financing armed conflict and war crimes,” says Richard Kent, Researcher in the Business and Human Rights department at Amnesty International.

“Companies need to undertake due diligence on the origin of crude oil and oil products, including at refineries and storage chokepoints at ports and terminals.”

Kent adds that if companies can’t prevent and mitigate the risk of tainted oil entering their supply chains, they should be responsible and end high risk business relationships.

How can these companies keep buying Russian jet fuel?

The EU has said it will ban seaborne imports of Russian crude oil from 5 December this year and refined fuel products from 5 February 2023. The UK is set to ban Russian crude and oil imports from the end of the year.

But a significant share of crude oil is re-exported by countries after they refine it.

Though it is from 2021, the Energy Aspects data shows that India is the third biggest source of jet fuel imports to Europe. As shipments are diverted away from Europe and India ramps up its refining of these crude oil products, fuel which is brought from India is likely to be increasingly of Russian origin.

The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air has described this as an important loophole in UK and EU sanctions that needs to be closed.

“European governments cannot claim to stand for peace, if they continue to allow the aviation industry to buy Russian oil that is financing war through the backdoor,” says Herwig Schuster, a transport campaigner at Greenpeace.

Rather than switching to alternative suppliers, many of whom have questionable human rights records, Schuster says governments must radically reduce air traffic. He suggests they start with banning European short-haul flights where reasonable train alternatives exist.

“The aviation sector must play its part in ensuring that Europe phases out of its excessive oil consumption that fuels war and the climate crisis. “

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