United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is on a trip to Uganda, has cautioned against buying oil from Russia.
“As for sanctions that we have on Russia – for example, oil sanctions – if a country decides to engage with Russia where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions,” said Linda in a media engagement in Kampala on Thursday.
The remarks come just a week after the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov told President Museveni that his country was open to a discussion with Uganda on purchase of petroleum to help curb the soaring fuel prices sparked by the Ukraine conflict and post COVID-19 supply chain disruptions.
“We sell oil to all the interested countries, and if there is a State which is interested, which is willing to buy our oil, whether it is India, whether it is an African State, there are no obstacles for this,” Lavrov said.
“Not only do we sell oil, but we also provide assistance in development and infrastructure in terms of refineries and oil products. So, we are also committed to have discussions with Ugandan friends on this topic,” he added.
Uganda gets fuel from middlemen who buy petrol products from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. The entry of Russia in supplying fuel to Uganda would be a game changer.
Meeting Linda on Thursday, President Museveni appealed to the US to consider separating African countries including Uganda from the sanctions because the high cost of fuel is affecting the prices of commodities due to high transport charges.
“If you really want to help the third world, why don’t you leave the third world out of these sanctions in a conflict where we are not participating. The priority here is the high cost of fuel which is affecting the price of commodities due to the high cost of transport,” he observed.
But Linda warned that countries buying oil from Russia are “breaking our sanctions and in some cases they’re breaking UN sanctions with other countries, and we caution countries not to break those sanctions because then, if they do, they stand the chance of having actions taken against them for breaking those sanctions.”
Interestingly, many countries across the world continue to import oil from Russia.
By the end of June, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands—members of both the EU and NATO—were among the largest importers of Russian oil, with only China surpassing them.
China overtook Germany as the largest importer, importing nearly 2 million barrels of discounted Russian oil per day in May—up 55% relative to a year ago.
Russia is the third-largest producer and second-largest exporter of crude oil.
Informed that Uganda’s economy was paying a heavy price over the increased cost of fuel, Linda observed: “But the reason you have a problem with the sanctioning of oil is because Russia started a war with one of its neighbors, attacked that neighbor unprovoked, and they are being held accountable for it. The President was in the Middle East in the past few weeks working with OPEC countries to encourage them to increase their production. I saw an announcement today that OPEC would be increasing its production to address some of the concerns about the high price of oil.”
Linda added: “But, yes, Russian oil is sanctioned, and we’re working to try to address some of the impact of oil prices on countries like Uganda. But it is not the sanctions. It is the unprovoked war that Russia itself started with Ukraine. And if they want to end this, they should end the war.”
In the months preceding the invasion, Russian officials accused Ukraine of Russophobia, inciting tensions, and repressing Russian speakers in Ukraine. They also made multiple security demands of Ukraine, NATO, and non-NATO allies in the EU which Moscow said were not fulfilled hence the launch of the so-called special military operation.
Linda also spoke about hunger and food insecurity which Moscow says was triggered by western sanctions on Russia.
“Russia has a narrative that sanctions on food and agricultural products have led to the increase in prices that countries are experiencing, and … I do want to say that we have no sanctions on any agricultural products coming out of Russia,” said Linda.
“Russia can export their agricultural products and countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat… We have not sanctioned banks. The issue with the banks and the insurance companies is that they don’t have confidence in Russia’s markets. And so, we have worked to address the concerns that these financial institutions and insurance companies have so that they can provide the financing and the insurance. So, there are banks in Russia that have been sanctioned, but banks outside that could provide financing for companies that want to do business with Russia are a bit skittish. So, we’re working with them to address their concerns. There is a help desk in the Department of Treasury that we have opened up and provided so companies can reach out directly to us.”