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UK imports zero fuel from Russia for the first month on record

Fuel imports from Russia - which usually averaged £499m a month - fell to zero for the first time in recorded data going back to 1997.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that by June the UK had already achieved its goal of phasing out Russian oil and natural gas imports. 

The plunge was driven by the sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. Prior to the invasion, Russia was the UK’s largest supplier of refined oil, supplying 5.9 per cent of the UK’s crude oil imports and 4.9 per cent of gas imports, according to the ONS.

Overall, Russia accounted for 24.1 per cent of all imports of refined oil. To compensate, the ONS said the UK had been compensating by increasing imports of refined oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Belgium.

“The economic sanctions applied by the UK government are likely to have driven the decreases in imports from and exports to Russia; however self-sanctioning, whereby traders voluntarily seek alternatives to Russian goods, is also likely a factor,” the ONS said.

However, energy was far from the only sector that saw a drastic decrease in Russian imports. Overall, the ONS revealed that imports of goods into the UK from Russia have dived by 96.6 per cent to £33m compared to average 2021 levels. Iron, steel, silver, gold, wood products and high-end goods were some of the items that saw a drastic decrease in imports.  

In contrast, exports from the UK to Russia increased slightly in June compared with the previous month, the ONS said, although they remained 66 per cent lower than the average for the same month in the year prior. 

The only products to see a slight rise (61.8 per cent) were chemicals, driven by an increase in exports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, which are exempt from sanctions.

The decision to impose a ban on Russian oil and gas has been one of the key drivers of the current rise in energy bills. With the price cap forecast to hit £3,600 in October and top £4,500 in January, the Resolution Foundation said the UK was on course for a “winter catastrophe” with thousands of people having their power cut off and health endangered as they are unable to afford their household bill. 

Following a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Ukraine’s independence day, UK Prime Minister Johnson warned that British households will “have to endure the cost-of-living crisis” in order to counter Russia’s “inevitable manipulation of energy prices” at least until the military conflict is resolved.

Last week, a University of York study suggested that around 18 million UK families - approximately two-thirds of the country’s population - will face fuel poverty as a consequence of rising energy costs and an inflation rate that has reached a 40-year record high.

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