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Bulgaria helps Russia earn around €1bn through oil loopholes - Politico

Experts believe that the sanctions have not been legally violated. Sofia took advantage of "ambiguities in EU rules". 

Bulgaria helps Russia earn around €1bn through oil loopholes - Politico
Photo: EPA/UPG

Bulgaria helped Russia earn about 1 billion euros via oil loopholes.

According to Politico, this was shown by an independent investigation by the publication and research by the NGO Global Witness, the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

In December last year, the European Commission gave Bulgaria a “special derogation” from the EU’s ban on Russian oil imports, allowing it to buy crude from Moscow until the end of 2024. 

The derogation was to protect the country’s security of supply, and not for Bulgaria’s giant Russian-owned refinery to process the fuels and sell them abroad for profits. 

"But using loopholes, Bulgaria allowed millions of barrels of Moscow’s oil to reach the Lukoil refinery that the Russian firm then exported as refined fuels abroad, including to EU countries," the article says.

Between March and July alone, the Lukoil refinery exported around 3 million barrels of likely Russian-origin fuels. 

Legally, this doesn’t breach sanctions, experts said. "Ambiguities in the EU’s rules, including on what counts as a trade, which fuels Bulgaria can export if it can’t store them, and how the Commission tallies data, create legal avenues for Lukoil to take advantage of," Politico writes.

Countries are calling for Brussels to act now to close these loopholes: three EU diplomats said the Commission should review Bulgaria’s opt-out ahead of its 12th package of sanctions that’s expected in the coming days. “If the purpose of exemption was to help [ordinary Bulgarians] survive … then we have failed,” said one of the diplomats. 

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