Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba came down hard on India’s leadership for using the Ukraine invasion as an “opportunity” to buy cheap Russian oil, saying Delhi is encashing a good deal at the cost of the Ukrainian people.
The minister of the war-torn country appeared in a televised interview on NDTV a day after a price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil, agreed upon by G7 countries and allies, came into force to stifle the Kremlin’s funding of the Ukrainian war.
“The opportunity for India to buy Russian oil at a cheap price comes from the fact that Ukrainians are suffering from Russian aggression and dying every day,” Mr Kuleba told the Delhi-based broadcaster.
“They are living in houses without heating, without hot water, without electricity. And this fact, we hope, should be appreciated by those who make decisions on purchasing Russian oil.”
Ukraine’s sharp criticism comes as India, China, and Turkey snapped up discounted Russian oil since the start of the so-called military operation in Ukraine. Delhi has particularly come under intense scrutiny from western countries as it dramatically accelerated oil imports from almost nothing in the first two months of this year, to 677,000 barrels per day (bpd) in June.
The Ukrainian foreign minister also dismissed Delhi’s argument that it is just supporting its economy and looking after its national interest, while criticising Europe.
“The European Union, between 24 February and 17 November, has imported more fossil fuel from Russia than the next 10 countries combined,” said Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar in his justification for buying cheap Russian oil.
“As far as India is concerned, the oil import by the EU is about six times as compared to the country. Gas is infinite times because we don’t import... it’s about $50bn.”
Mr Kuleba’s suggestion for his Indian counterpart was to ditch its rhetoric as the “core reason” for the cheap Russian imports was the Ukraine invasion.
“It is not enough to point fingers at the European Union and say, ‘Oh, they are doing the same thing,’ because the core of India’s opportunity, the core reason of India’s opportunity to save money on oil and to buy more cheap oil and to solve its economic problems, is not the fact that Europeans are buying the Russian oil,” he said.
“It’s the fact that Ukrainians are suffering from Russia’s war and dying because of it.”
He asked Indian leadership to remember the sufferings of Ukrainians.
“If you benefit because of our suffering, it would be good to see more of your help addressed to us,” he said.
India has continued showcasing its long-standing and close ties with Russia and refused to bow to western pressure for sanctions to squeeze Moscow’s economy and deepen its isolation.
It has also repeatedly abstained from voting against Moscow in several UN resolutions, affirming a neutral stance towards the issue.
Not rising above 200,000 bpd in any month last year, India’s Russian crude imports soared to the greatest level in April – at 952,000 bpd. Russia’s exports to India have remained upwards of 750,000 bpd since then, with the exception of June, when refiners drew 677,000 bpd, said data provided by commodities-tracking company Kpler.
But despite condemning India’s “morally inappropriate” policy on the issue, Mr Kuleba welcomed any potential efforts by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to intervene to end the war.
“India is a very important player in the global arena and the Prime Minister of India, with his voice, can make a change,” he said.
Mr Kuleba, however, pointed out that Ukraine will wait when Indian foreign policy “will call [a] spade a spade” and officially label the conflict as “Russian aggression against Ukraine”.