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NEW DELHI: India has asked state-run energy companies to evaluate the possibility of buying European oil major BP’s stake in sanctions-hit Russian firm Rosneft, two people familiar with the matter said.

BP has announced it is abandoning its 19.75% stake in Rosneft.

The oil ministry last week conveyed its intent to ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), Indian Oil Corp., Bharat Petro Resources Ltd (BPRL), Hindustan Pertoleum’s subsidiary Prize Petroleum Ltd, Oil India Ltd and GAIL (India) Ltd, the sources said.

Indian companies and the oil ministry did not respond to Reuters emails seeking comment.

While Western nations have imposed sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, India has not explicitly condemned Moscow’s actions there.

The world’s third biggest oil importer and consumer, India imports about 85% of its 5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil needs.

The call on Indian companies to explore buying the stake in Rosneft came after BP CEO Bernard Looney met Indian oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri in March.

BP declined to comment.

Oil ministry also asked OVL, the overseas investment arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corp, to consider buying a 30% stake held by Exxon Mobile Corp, in the Sakhalin 1 project in Russia’s Far East. Exxon is the operator of the project.

OVL already holds a 20% stake in the project.

Exxon said on March 1 it would exit about $4 billion in assets and discontinue all its Russia operations, including Sakhalin 1. OVL also holds 26% stake in Vankorneft, owner of the Venkor field in the West Siberian Basin.

Separately, a consortium of Oil India, IOC, and BPRL, the exploration arm of state refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp , holds a 23.9% stake in Vankorneft and a 29.9% stake in Taas-Yuryakh in east Siberia.

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