Bulgaria will drop its exemption from EU sanctions against Russia six months earlier than planned – just days after POLITICO revealed the loophole allowed the Kremlin to raise an extra billion euros for its war effort in Ukraine.
Parties supporting the government coalition announced the move on Friday, following a fierce debate sparked by a POLITICO report that Bulgaria was letting millions of barrels of oil from Moscow reach a Russian refinery on its territory, which exported then various fuels refined abroad, notably to EU countries.
The refinery was able to transport Russian oil because Bulgaria had been granted an exclusive exemption from the EU’s ban on imports of Russian crude oil by sea – a measure meant to protect the country from energy shortages. The government said it would now end this exemption on March 1 instead of its previously self-imposed deadline of October 31.
In addition to the 983 million euros that this loophole has allowed Russia via levies on production and exports, it has also generated nearly 500 million euros in profits since February for the owner of the Lukoil refinery, the largest Russia’s largest private oil company, according to a classified analysis prepared for the Bulgarian parliament and seen by POLITICO.
“With March 1 as the end date of the waiver, it is guaranteed that there will be no shocks to the national fuel market,” said Bulgarian Finance Minister Asen Vasilev, who personally helped negotiate exemption in Brussels last year during sanctions negotiations.
Vasilev also said he would support suspending export quotas from the Lukoil-owned refinery from January 1 to help reduce “money going to Russia.”