Russian President Vladimir Putin has received a major blow after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz snatched up Russian shares in three crucial oil refineries as Europe scrambles to scupper energy links with Moscow. Berlin has taken control of the operations of Rosneft and, Russia’s state-owned oil giant, in Germany at three refineries. The move could be a major breakthrough for the country, which has seen its crucial gas supplies cut off from Russia amid the Ukraine war, dealing a huge blow to its economy which has been pushed to the brink of a recession.
But now, Mr Scholz’s Government has made a significant step towards completely phasing out Russian oil, which used to account for a third of its total consumption.
Rosneft’s German subsidiaries account for around 12 percent of Germany’s oil refining capacity, which has now been placed under the control of the nation’s Federal Network Agency.
Rosneft owned the majority of the major PCK Refinery, situated in Schwedt in east Germany, which turns crude oil into useable fuel for Berlin and the surrounding areas, with the Russian firm also owning large stakes in two other refineries in southern Germany too, at Kalsurhe and Vonburg.
But Berlin has moved to take stakes in three refineries – PCK Schwedt, MiRo and Bayernoil, which were owned by Rosneft Deutschland GmbH and RN Refining & Marketing GmbH.
It said it had no choice but to take control of these assets amid fears that Russia could cut off its oil supplies at any moment, whil German companies are also reportedly unwilling to continue operating alongside Rosneft.
Germany’s economy ministry said: “The trust management will counter the threat to the secrutiy of energy supply.”
The energy ministry said: “This is another prick of the needle for Putin, every prick of the needle counts, to show him that his war [on UKriaine] is leading him first and foremost into political isolation.”
The move will reportedly let the refineries carry on operating, while also allowing crude oil from other countries to pour in via the Baltic port of Rostock. Mr Scholz says it will also help to avoid redundancies at the plants.
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But Moscow has lashed out at Berlin for such a move, claiming it is “illegal, with Rosneft saying in a stamement on Friday that it may even take Berlin to court to challenge the decision.
It comes after Mr Scholz said he did not inform Putin of the plans to put Rosneft under Berlin’s control during a phone call between the two leaders at the start of the week.
The German Chancellor said at a conference in Berlin on Firday: “Russia is no longer a reliable supplier of energy, that is obvious from recent weeks.” He added that the move will ensure Germany has oil supplies both in the “medium and long-term”.
It comes after the refineries’ operations were disrutped following Germany’s move to slash Russian oil imports, with a plan to phase out the fuel source by the end of the year in line with EU sanctions.
Members of the 27-nation bloc agreed on a partial ban on Russian oil back in May, agreeing to immediately slash up to 75 percent of Russian oil imports and to almost completely cut out the feul by the end of the year, slashing imports by 90 percent.
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But Germany’s economy ministry says that since Russia first invaded Ukraine back in mid-February, it has managed to slash Russian oil consumption in the country from 35 percent to 12 percent.
While it may have been more straightforward to phase out oil, Berlin is finding it much harder to cope with plummeting volumes of Russian gas, which accounted for more than half of its total supplies last year.
Russia’s move to completely cut off gas travelling through the major Nord Stream pipeline, which sends Russian supplies to Germany via the Baltic Sea, has sparked panic for the nation as it grapples with a seriously tough economic situation that has theatened factory shutdowns and gas rationing.
While some Russian gas has still been reaching Germany via Ukraine and Turkey, Berlin’s move to seize shares in the Russian-operated oil refineries may backfrie after Moscow threatened to retaliate by shutting off all remaining taps.
The move could send prices soaring even further than the staggering levels already reached in Europe, sparking gas rationing fears for Berlin as it struggles to cope with the already plummeting supplies.