Brazil become largest buyer of Russian diesel last year, overtaking Türkiye

Brazil imported 6.1 million tons of diesel from Russia in 2023, which is over 60 times more than 101,000 tons in 2022. The value in dollar terms increased from $95 million to $4.5 billion, according to official government figures.

Additionally, the Latin American country augmented its acquisitions of fuel oil from Russia, witnessing an increase from $1.1 billion the previous year to $5.3 billion in the last fiscal year. Those, Brazil overtook Turkey in October to become the largest buyer of Russian diesel  according to data from Kpler.

FT Infographic, Source Kpler

The remarkable surge in imports may give rise to allegations that Brazil is displaying sympathetic to Russia in the war. Although Brasília officially condemned Russia’s invasion, Lula last year repeatedly claimed that Kyiv bears equal responsibility with Moscow for the conflict and has accused Washington of “encouraging” the violence.

According to government officials, the substantial uptick in acquisitions, notably during the initial year of leftwing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s back in office help to boost the Russian economy as the war in Ukraine enters its third year

Considering the extensive sanctions enforced by Western nations in response to Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has resorted to offering crude oil and oil products at discounted rates. Notably, Brazil’s acquisitions fall within the permissible scope of the sanctions regime, providing strict adherence to a meticulous set of regulations addressing concerns such as shipping.

Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, said: “The first thing going on is just realpolitik. Brazil has identified an opportunity to obtain Russian commodities at a discount and it is not only diesel, but also fertilizer. The same goes for countries like India.

“[But] at the same time Brazil is keen to preserve its economic and political ties with Russia. Brazil being willing to help out in the midst of this situation [in Ukraine] is part of an implicit dynamic within the Brics, which is they have an all-weather friendship and help each other out in times of difficulty,” he said, referring to the group that also includes Russia, India, China and South Africa.”

Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation
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