India has asked state-owned enterprises to consider purchasing Russian oil assets.

According to two persons familiar with the situation, India has ordered state-run energy corporations to investigate the potential of purchasing European oil company BP's interest in sanctions-hit Russian business Rosneft.

BP has stated that it will sell its 19.75% interest in Rosneft.

According to sources, the oil ministry informed Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Ltd (OVL), Indian Oil Corp., Bharat Petro Resources Ltd (BPRL), Hindustan Petroleum's subsidiary Prize Petroleum Ltd, Oil India Ltd, and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) of its intention last week.

Reuters emails requesting response from Indian firms and the energy ministry were not returned.

While Western nations have sanctioned Russia for its operations in Ukraine, India has not formally criticized Moscow's conduct there.

India, the world's third largest oil importer and user, imports around 85% of its 5 million barrels per day oil needs.

The invitation to Indian firms to investigate purchasing a share in Rosneft came after Bhart Petrolium (BP) Chief Executive Office (CEO) Bernard Looney met with Indian energy minister Hardeep Singh Puri in March.

The Oil Ministry also urged OVL, Oil and Natural Gas Corp's foreign investment arm, to investigate purchasing Exxon Mobile Corp's 30% share in the Sakhalin 1 project in Russia's Far East. Exxon is the project's operator.

OVL already has a 20% interest in the project.

Exxon said on March 1 that it will sell $4 billion in assets and cease all activities in Russia, including Sakhalin 1. OVL also owns a 26% share in Vankorneft, which owns the Venkor field in the West Siberian Basin.

Separately, a partnership comprised of Oil India, and BPRL, the exploration arm of state refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp, owns 23.9% of Vankorneft and 29.9% of Taas-Yuryakh in east Siberia.

According to one of the individuals, given the danger involved, Indian corporations aim to acquire holdings in Russian enterprises at discounted prices, referring to the planned deals as "distress sales."

According to a second source, Indian firms need to examine the impact of sanctions on possible investments and have yet to begin the due diligence process.

"We are concerned that this investment may become stranded in Russia since sanctions may prevent us from delivering equity oil and gas to India. Our efforts have been directed at determining how we might stabilize business transactions and economic engagements with Russia in the current environment, There are limits, and some countries have imposed sanctions, which we will have to work around," Arindam Bagchi, a spokeswoman for India's foreign ministry, stated during a press conference.

Exxon announced on Wednesday that its Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas Ltd, has declared force majeure for its Sakhalin-1 operations owing to Russian restrictions, which have made it increasingly difficult to transfer petroleum to clients.

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