LONDON (AP) — Energy giant Shell said Tuesday that it will stop buying Russian oil and natural gas and shut down its service stations, aviation fuels and other operations in the country amid international pressure for companies to sever ties over the invasion of Ukraine.
The company said in a statement that it would withdraw from all Russian hydrocarbons, including crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas and liquefied natural gas, “in a phased manner.”
The decision comes as surging oil prices have been rattling global markets and days after Ukraine’s foreign minister criticized Shell for continuing to buy Russian oil, lashing out at the company for continuing to do business with President Vladimir Putin’s government.
“We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil to be refined into products like petrol and diesel — despite being made with security of supplies at the forefront of our thinking — was not the right one and we are sorry,” CEO Ben van Beurden said.
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He said profits from the company’s “limited, remaining amounts of Russian oil” would go to a fund for relief efforts for Ukrainians.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had been told Shell “discreetly” bought the oil Friday and appealed to the public to pressure the company and other international firms to halt such purchases.
“One question to Shell: doesn’t Russian oil smell (like) Ukrainian blood for you?” Kuleba said on Twitter. “I call on all conscious people around the globe to demand multinational companies to cut all business ties with Russia.”
Last week, Shell said it was “shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine” and would end its joint ventures with Gazprom, the massive oil and gas company controlled by the Russian government.
While the U.S., Britain and the European Union have imposed tough economic sanctions on Russia, they have stopped short of banning oil and gas imports from Russia because of concerns about the impact that would have on global energy supplies. Russia is the world’s second-biggest oil producer, accounting for more than 12% of global production, according to the International Energy Agency.
Ukraine and its supporters have called on countries around the world to stop buying Russian oil to restrict funding for Putin’s military exploits. But that is certain to affect consumers.
A month ago, oil was selling for about $90 a barrel. Now, prices are surging past $120 a barrel as buyers shun Russian crude, with many refiners fearing that sanctions could be imposed in the future. They worry about being left with oil they couldn’t resell as gasoline if sanctions were imposed in the near future.
“These societal challenges highlight the dilemma between putting pressure on the Russian government over its atrocities in Ukraine and ensuring stable, secure energy supplies across Europe,” van Beurden said.
He said Shell would work with governments “to help manage the potential impacts on the security of energy supplies, particularly in Europe.″
In a private video call with American lawmakers over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate” plea to the United States to help Kyiv get more warplanes to fight Russia’s invasion and retain control of its airspace.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Washington has given a “green light” to the idea and is currently “very, very actively” looking at a proposal under which Ukraine’s neighbor Poland would supply Kyiv with Soviet-era fighters and in turn receive American F-16s to make up for their loss.
However, the proposition is fraught with uncertainty and Poland has been less than enthusiastic about it in public, largely because Russia has warned that supporting Ukraine’s air force would be seen in Moscow as participating in the conflict and open up suppliers to possible retaliation. Official comment from NATO and European Union member Poland has been only to confirm continuing talks on the subject.
The air force has been far outnumbered by the much more powerful Russian air force, but Ukrainian pilots have continued to fly combat sorties and claim kills in combat despite repeated assertions by the Russian military that it has suppressed Ukraine’s air power and air defense assets.
WHY NOT US WARPLANES?
Ukraine’s military pilots aren’t trained to fly U.S. jet fighters and would be far more equipped to handle MiG-29 or Su planes that are currently used by former Soviet-bloc NATO members Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Ukrainian pilots would be able to fly MiGs right away, but Poland isn’t eager to lose significant amounts of its air force without replacements. U.S.-made F-16s are becoming the mainstay of Poland’s air force as it modernizes its military.
WHAT IS POLAND’S RESPONSE?
Blinken has said there is a “green light” for Poland to send planes to Ukraine.
“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland can provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland decide to supply those planes. I can’t speak to a timeline, but I can just tell you we’re looking at it very, very actively,” Blinken said on Sunday in Moldova.
The response from Poland was restrained, though.
“As far as sending planes, I can only repeat that no decisions have been taken on the subject,” government spokesman Piotr Mueller said.
Mueller denied allegations that Poland could be making its airfields available to Ukrainian warplanes. Russia alleges that Romania and some other countries it didn’t name are hosting Ukraine’s warplanes.