NGOs call for German fossil fuel giant’s Russian profits to be taxed at 100% and committed to Ukrainian reconstruction

Wintershall Dea, subsidiary of German chemical giant BASF, is selling gas condensate to a Russian military jet fuel supplier, according to an investigation.

Der Spiegel & broadcaster ZDF report that Wintershall sells large quantities of gas condensate, a liquid similar to crude oil which can be used to produce jet fuel, to Gazprom, its partner in Russia.

The report alleges Gazprom delivers jet fuel to a number of Russian air bases on the Ukrainian border, including bases at Morozovsk and Voronezh. These bases house SU-34s, warplanes that have been implicated by human rights groups in war crimes, including an attack on civilians in Chernihiv on March 3 which killed 47.

Wintershall has maintained operations in Russia on the grounds that its gas production at Siberian fields contributes to European energy security. Russian gas flows to Europe have been significantly curtailed by the Kremlin.

Fossil fuel extraction in Russia has become increasingly lucrative for Wintershall, netting the group €1.2 billion euros in profit between January and September 2022, a five-fold increase compared to the same period in 2021. On October 25, Wintershall announced quarterly adjusted net income of €851 million euros, up 264% from last year. Der Spiegel and ZDF calculate that Wintershall has paid €320 million for the first three quarters of 2022 in Russian income tax payments alone.

Jon Noronha-Gant, senior campaigner at Global Witness said ‘’Any company that supplies Gazprom in Russia risks fuelling the war. Wintershall’s presence in Russia is undermining Germany’s support for Ukraine. The German government should tax its Russian profits at 100% and use them to fund Ukrainian reconstruction’’.

Svitlana Romanko, Director of Razom We Stand, said, "As a Ukrainian I find it utterly shocking to find out that a German company may be helping provide jet fuel to Russia. These Russian jets, which are bombing my country daily, kill innocent people, often as part of proven war crimes. German people should be just as horrified as I am that a German company is in any way connected to such brutal crimes of war. I call on Germany to immediately tax, at 100%, Wintershall’s Russian profits, as well as any other fossil fuel company that profits from Russia's brutal war. Any funds raised should be given to Ukraine to help rebuild from the destruction Russia has delivered upon my country."

Sonja Meister, Urgewald said “Today’s revelations hit a nerve that must elicit a strong and definitive response. Wintershall Dea’s management cannot talk their way out of this one.  They must finally cut their close ties with Gazprom and give up all their Russian business. The German government should not accept that a German company continues business with a supplier of jet ful for Russian bombers. It’s time to put pressure on the company to immediately leave Russia and redirect Wintershall Dea’s bloody profits from Russia as reparations for rebuilding Ukraine.”

Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Executive Director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe said "Wintershall Dea has nearly half of its total oil and gas production in Russia. We need more than empty words about allegedly stopping all financial flows with Russia: Wintershall Dea needs to kick off right now radical transformative change in its business model. The company must put an end to its fossil production as soon as possible to even have a remote chance of still being in line with the Paris Agreement: ending their Russian business would be an obvious first step in the direction of abandoning their purely fossil portfolio."

Responding to Der Spiegel, Wintershall denied a direct connection between the gas condensate production in question and the Russian attacks, calling it "contrived". It said that its gas condensate is "processed into many different petrochemical products".

The investigation into Wintershall comes as a criminal complaint was filed against French oil major TotalEnergies with the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office in Paris on October 13 for alleged complicity in war crimes. TotalEnergies held a majority economic stake in a Siberian gas field which was linked to the same Russian airbases, an allegation the company has denied.