Russian oil machinery against a sunset.

A view from the oil company Tatneft in Tatarstan, Russia, on June 4, 2023.

(Photo: Alexander Manzyuk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Putin is Vulnerable—Stop Buying Russian Fossil Fuels and He’ll Be Powerless

If you stand with Ukraine, tell world leaders to fully sanction Russian oil and gas companies.

Recently my son graduated from high school, but because Russia invaded our country last year, he and his classmates faced a graduation with no ceremony due to unrelenting military attacks. The sadness and frustration I felt was intense. I feared the defining moments of his life would be persistently marred by tragedy, when all I want is for my son to enjoy a healthy, everyday life.

For over a year, we’ve angrily watched as the world continues to finance Vladimir Putin’s war by purchasing Russian fossil fuels, without considering the effect this has on Ukrainian lives. Over the last several days, we watched as cracks formed in Putin’s facade of control, but to bring an end to this war the world must stop purchasing Russian fossil fuels and help rebuild a self-sufficient, independent Ukraine—fully powered by renewable energy.

When we learned there would be no graduation ceremony, we pleaded with the school to hold a short ceremony, a desperate attempt to give our children a moment of regular life. To our surprise, and in spite of continuous drone attacks and long air raids, the principal relented and supported our request. I will never forget watching our children celebrating, swaying in a beautiful dance, and proudly honoring a Ukrainian flag at the end. For the first time in a long time, we basked in their youth and hope as we did before the war.

The global addiction to fossil fuels, namely oil, fossil and LNG gas, destroys democracy, threatens people’s future, and empowers fossil fuelled dictators to wage wars.

My son wants to study electrical engineering and has a passion for making the world a better place. He dreams of building “smart,” zero-emitting, energy-efficient homes, and I do everything I can to support him. I fear that he and his classmates will confront war, forced to become soldiers instead of engineers, teachers, artists, or activists.

Earlier last month, we attended the Ukraine Rebuilding Festival in London, where countries committed billions of dollars of financial aid to Ukraine. I thought about the path these countries are taking and how it is affecting my son and the rest of his graduating class. I worry these countries are gambling away their future, providing rebuilding aid and at the same time continuing to buy Russian fossil fuels to finance Putin’s war.

No amount of financial aid erases the fact that these countries are complicit in the war against our country, as they continue to empower Putin by purchasing Russian fossil fuels. The global addiction to fossil fuels, namely oil, fossil and LNG gas, destroys democracy, threatens people’s future, and empowers fossil fuelled dictators to wage wars. In the week leading up to the Ukraine Recovery Conference, European and G7-owned or insured tankers accepted $1.3 billion of Russian fossil fuels. From February 27 to May 7, 2023, the E.U. and the U.K. received the largest volume of Russian methane gas via pipeline through Ukraine. European imports of Russian liquified methane gas are expected to keep surging in 2023. And European countries are using China, India, Singapore, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates to launder Russian oil and gas.

Oil and gas companies are not only perpetuating the humanitarian crisis, but profiting from the war against our country. Total Energies, BP, Shell, and other oil and gas companies still own significant shares in Russian fossil fuel companies and are shamelessly profiteering from the war.

Support from the international community, including countries, investors, and businesses, has been important. We thank them. But the war is not over. We still need hundreds of billions to rebuild what Russia has destroyed in Ukraine, and the amount only grows as the world continues to finance the war by delaying a full ban on purchasing Russia’s fossil fuels, postponing its enforcement, and deepening the global addiction to oil and gas. We need complete sanctions, especially on the fossil fuel industry. More countries need to act like the U.K., which recently introduced new laws maintaining sanctions and developing a way for frozen Russian assets to be donated to Ukrainian reconstruction.

I want my son and his classmates to see a full and effective green rebuilding of Ukraine, but that means we must fully sanction Russia’s fossil fuel industry, leaving Putin powerless to wage his war. This would bring us closer to opening a clean energy market in a safe and peaceful country. So my message is simple. If you stand with Ukraine, tell world leaders to stop buying Russian fossil fuels. Instead of dooming the children of Ukraine to defend themselves daily from Russian military attacks and air raids, allow our children to have the freedom to live out their dreams in peace.

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