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China May oil imports from Russia soar to a record, surpass top supplier Saudi

Reuters) - China's crude oil imports from Russia soared 55% from a year earlier to a record level in May, displacing Saudi Arabia as the top supplier, as refiners cashed in on discounted supplies amid sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Imports of Russian oil, including supplies pumped via the East Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline and seaborne shipments from Russia's European and Far Eastern ports, totalled nearly 8.42 million tonnes, according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.

That's equivalent to roughly 1.98 million barrels per day (bpd) and up a quarter from 1.59 million bpd in April.

The data, which shows that Russia took back the top ranking of suppliers to the world's biggest crude oil importer after a gap of 19 months, indicates that Moscow is able to find buyers for its oil despite western sanctions, though it has had to slash prices.

And while China's overall crude oil demand has been dampened by COVID-19 curbs and a slowing economy, leading importers, including refining giant Sinopec and trader Zhenhua Oil, have stepped up buying cheaper Russian oil on top of sanctioned supplies from Iran and Venezuela that allows them to scale back competing supplies from West Africa and Brazil.