Russia's Urals oil at biggest discount to benchmark for 2 years, traders say

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An employee works at the Bashneft - Novoil refinery in the city of Ufa, in this April 11, 2013 picture. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

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MOSCOW, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Russia's flagship Urals oil grade is trading at the biggest discount to global benchmark Brent since spring 2020, hit by rising tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, four traders in the Russian oil market said on Tuesday.

Moscow ordered troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war, despite the threat of sanctions including the blocking of a major new Russian gas pipeline. read more

On Monday, Urals oil cargoes loading from Baltic ports in March was offered at dated Brent minus $4.60 per barrel - the biggest discount since spring 2020.

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According to two traders, a couple of March Urals cargoes loading from Russia's Baltic ports traded at a discount over $4 per barrel this week, while more cargoes are on offer at weaker prices amid limited demand from European buyers.

"Buyers take Urals, but it's not their first choice. They use geopolitical tensions in price arguments more and more often," a source with a large trading firm involved in Urals trading said.

Highlighting the geopolitical effect on Urals prices, Caspian CPC Blend oil loaded from the Yuzhnaya Ozereyevka terminal in the south of Russia - mostly sourced by Kazakh oil producers - is trading around dated Brent minus $1.50 per barrel, traders said and Refinitv Eikon terminal data showed.

CPC Blend has mostly traded at a discount to Urals in recent years.

Norway's Johan Sverdrup oil, which is similar in quality to Urals and often used as an alternative, is also trading at discount of around $1.50 per barrel, traders said.

At the same time, a surge in Brent prices is leading to record absolute prices for Urals oil, traders said, which may soften the impact of the big discount.

On Tuesday, the price of Urals oil cargoes loading from Baltic ports was around $95 per barrel - the highest since 2014, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

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Reporting by Olga Yagova and Gleb Gorodyankin, additional reporting by Alex Lawler Editing by Mark Potter

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