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Russia Says It Will Cut Oil Production Over Western Caps

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An oil tanker is moored in Novorossiysk, Russia. (AP File Photo)
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Russia announced Friday that will cut oil production by 500,000 barrels per day next month after Western countries capped the price of its crude over its action in Ukraine.

“As of today, we fully sell all our crude output, but as we stated before, we will not sell oil to those who directly or indirectly adhere to the ‘price ceiling,’” Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

“In connection with that, Russia will voluntarily cut production by 500,000 barrels a day. It will help restore market-style relations,” he said.

Analysts have said one possible Russian response to the cap would be to slash production to try to raise oil prices, which could eventually flow through to higher gasoline prices at the pump as less oil makes it to the global market.

International benchmark Brent crude rose 2.2% Friday, to $86.42 per barrel.

The Group of Seven major democracies have imposed a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil shipped to non-Western countries. The goal is to keep oil flowing to the world to prevent price spikes that were seen last year, while limiting Russia’s financial gains that can be used to pay for its campaign against Ukraine.

The cap is enforced by barring Western companies that largely control shipping and insurance services from moving oil priced above the limit.

Russia has said it will not sell oil to countries observing the cap, a moot point because Russian oil has been trading below the price ceiling recently. However, the cap, an accompanying European Union embargo on most Russian oil and lower demand for crude have meant that customers in India, Turkey and China have been able to push for substantial discounts on Russian oil.

Impact of Cut Questioned

The impact of a cut of 500,000 barrels per day is an open question as a slowing global economy reduces the thirst for oil.

The OPEC+ alliance of oil producers, which includes Russia, tried to boost oil prices with an October announcement that it would cut production by 2 million barrels per day, only to see prices fall below $80 per barrel by December.

Asked if Russia consulted OPEC+ members about Moscow’s new production cut, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “there had been conversations with some members of the OPEC+” before the move was announced. He didn’t offer any details.

But Novak insisted in a statement later that Moscow made the move without consulting anyone.

“It’s a voluntary cut; there have been no consultations with anyone regarding it,” the deputy prime minister said, according to the Russian media.

The new reduction could be “an early sign that Russia might try to weaponize oil supplies after last year’s failed attempt to weaponize natural gas,” said Simone Tagliapietra, an energy policy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels.

But that could be difficult to accomplish because it’s easier to find alternative supplies of oil, traded through tankers that crisscross the globe, than to replace natural gas, which before the war mostly came by pipeline.

Russian exporter Gazprom has cut off most supplies of natural gas to Europe, citing technical issues and refusal by some customers to pay in Russian currency. European officials call it retaliation for supporting Ukraine.

Europe did suffer from resulting high natural gas prices but has managed to replace much of the lost Russian supply from other sources including shipborne liquefied gas from the U.S. and Qatar. Natural gas prices have since come down from all-time highs last summer but are still three times higher than before Russia massed troops on the Ukraine border.

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