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India resumes buying Russian Sokol oil after 2-month hiatus

(Reuters) - India has resumed imports of Russian Sokol oil after a two-month gap with at least two refiners so far taking deliveries of the light sweet crude in February, four trade sources said and ship tracking data showed.

India's Hindustan Petroleum Corp HPCL.NS has bought Sokol oil from a trader, the sources said. HPCL is likely to pay for the oil in UAE dirhams, three of them added.

Indian state refiners had to stop buying the grade last year after the government advised them against using Chinese yuan to pay for Russian oil amid strained relations between New Delhi and Beijing.

That led to more than 10 million barrels of unsold Sokol floating in seaborne storages in one of the biggest disruptions to Russian oil trade since the West imposed sanctions on Moscow over its military actions in Ukraine.

India did not receive Sokol oil in December and January, data from trade sources and the ship tracking data shows.

The vessel Seagull, carrying about 95,000 metric tons of Sokol, discharged at India's western Mumbai port on Feb. 13, the LSEG ship tracking data shows.

HPCL rarely bought Sokol in the past. It previously bought the grade for delivery at Mumbai in August, according to the LSEG data.

HPCL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February, private refiner Nayara Energy, majority-owned by Russian entities including oil major Rosneft ROSN.MM, also took a delivery of Sokol oil, the data shows.

LSEG data also shows that three vessels carrying Sokol oil - NS Lion, NS Antarctic and Raven - are expected to arrive at the eastern ports of Paradip and Visakhapatnam later this month.

The sources said Russia would look at selling Sokol oil through trading firms to reduce surplus floating stocks in the Pacific. Selling via a trader will help Russia get steady payments, though that will reduce discounts for the buyer, they said.

Sokol oil is exported by Sakhalin-1 LLC, a subsidiary of Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is also a seller of the grade.

Rosneft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Indian Oil CorpI, the country's top refiner, was one of the key buyers of Sokol oil under its annual contract with Rosneft.

It had to stop buying the grade because Sakhalin 1 LLC has been unable to open an account with a bank in the UAE to accept dirham payments.

Earlier this month, China took two cargoes of Sokol oil, LSEG and Kpler data showed and traders said.


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