January-February volumes spiked more that 20% year-on-year © Getty Images / CHUNYIP WONG

Russia became China’s largest oil supplier in the first two months of 2023, overtaking Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing data from China’s General Administration of Customs.

Crude deliveries from Russia amounted to 15.68 million tons in January-February, roughly 1.94 million barrels per day (bpd). It marked a 23.8% increase compared to the same period in 2022.

Imports from Saudi Arabia, China’s top supplier last year, totaled 13.92 million tons in the reporting period, or 1.72 million bpd, down from 1.81 million bpd during the same period last year.

In response to Western sanctions and the G7 price cap on its oil, Russia has been pushing to secure new buyers in Asia. China has gradually boosted oil imports from Russia over the past year. By the end of 2022, Russia had become China’s second-largest supplier with 86.2 million tons. Saudi Arabia was only slightly ahead with 87.49 million tons.

China has been a crucial economic partner for Russia in the face of intensifying Western sanctions. Official statistics show that Russia was the leader among China’s top-20 partners in terms of trade growth in 2022.

Trade turnover is on pace to hit $200 billion this year after jumping by double digits in the first two months. In January, Russia also became China’s largest supplier of natural gas, Chinese customs data showed on Monday.

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