South African officials are openly considering importing Russian oil to ease record fuel prices, a move that would help Moscow sidestep sanctions imposed by Westerns powers for its invasion of Ukraine.
Gwede Mantashe, minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, said during a parliamentary debate Wednesday that it was time for South Africa to turn to Russia for its fuel needs. Mantashe’s remarks, which were met with applause, point to possible limits of efforts to economically squeeze as fuel prices continue to soar.
“We should consider importing crude oil from Russia at a low price because it is not sanctioned,” said Mantashe.
As a result, energy prices have skyrocketed. The average price of a barrel of crude oil soared $101 in April 2022, over $30 higher than the annual average in 2021, according to Statista.
South Africa’s Finance Ministry extended a fuel tax holiday in June to help the country’s residents cope with record high prices, reports Cape Town news outlet Independent Online. The holiday will be reduced by half in July, putting pressure on leaders to find a more lasting solution, the outlet reports.
Mondli Gungubele, South Africa’s minister in the presidency, told reporters last week that the government hadn’t ruled out purchasing oil from Russia if it could lower fuel prices, reports fin24.
Speaking in parliament, Mantashe said the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU “have resulted in major imbalance in the demand and supply” for oil. He said increased energy prices have fallen disproportionately on developing countries, and warned it could cause a world recession.
While Russia has faced backlash for invading Ukraine, African nations have been less willing to give Moscow the cold shoulder. South Africa in March abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Other African countries have continued to turn to Russia for grain imports despite sanctions. Putin welcomed Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union, to his residence in Sochi earlier in June to discuss ending the blockades, despite warnings from the U.S.
As global oil prices have risen, the Kremlin has shrugged off sanctions from the U.S. and EU. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month that sanctions would not hurt the country’s budget.
China and India, two large and energy-dependent nations, have continued purchasing Russian oil, helping blunt the effect of the sanctions.
Newsweek reached out to the State Department for comment.
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