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Pakistan celebrates arrival of first shipment of discounted Russian crude oil in landmark deal

The Pakistani government on Monday welcomed the arrival of the first shipment of discounted crude from Russia under a key deal between Islamabad and Moscow.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif hailed it as a “fulfillment of promises” to the nation while Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted that it marked a “true service” for the people.

The cargo was being unloaded in the port city of Karachi, the country’s main hub for imports. Cash-strapped Pakistan had been in talks with Russia to import discounted crude since February 2022, when former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

Khan’s visit coincided with the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a visit that at the time strained relations between Pakistan and the United States. Moscow has since grappled with Western sanctions over the war, rerouting much of its supply to India, China and other Asian countries at discounted prices after Western customers shunned it in response to the invasion.

Pakistan’s deputy oil minister, Musadiq Malik, told the Geo news TV that Islamabad had initially signed an agreement with Russia for the purchase of 100,000 tons of oil, which is supposed to arrive in two ships. The first vessel with the crude arrived in Karachi on Sunday. The size of its cargo load was not immediately known.

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Russian oil cargo

In this photo released by Karachi Port Trust, a Russian oil cargo carrying discounted crude, is anchored at a port, in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 11, 2023. (Karachi Port Trust via AP)

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He did not share any details about the price of Russian oil, saying only that Pakistan will try to ensure a steady import with the expectations that prices at the pump will decrease.

“If we start getting one-third of our crude oil from Russia, then there will be a big difference in prices and its effect will reach people’s pockets,” Malik said.

No details were revealed about how the payments are being made.

Sharif’s government is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis in the aftermath of the devastating flooding last summer that killed more than 1,700 people and caused $30 billion in damages.

Meanwhile, talks with the International Monetary Fund for the revival of the $6 billion bailout package have been on hold since December.

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