Oil prices rose after pro-Russian rebels held disputed referendums in eastern Ukraine.
NEW YORK (AFP) – Oil prices rose Monday after pro-Russian rebels held disputed referendums in eastern Ukraine and said voters chose independence, raising fears of a civil war that could disrupt oil supplies.
The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in June, added 60 cents to close at $100.59 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for June gained 52 cents to trade at $108.41 a barrel in London.
“With the risk of escalating geopolitical tensions in and around Ukraine… oil supplies could be disrupted,” said Desmond Chua, analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.
Pro-Russian separatists claimed a massive victory in referendums held over the weekend in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Kiev denounced the balloting as a “criminal farce.” The United States and the European Union condemned the self-rule votes as illegal.
The crisis has raised fears of a violent breakup of Ukraine and the possibility of a civil war on Europe’s eastern edge.
“Oil traders have priced in a lot of this risk and really are waiting to see what happens next,” said Phil Flynn of Price Futures Group.
Highlighting the stakes for the EU, Russia’s state natural gas giant Gazprom warned it may halt shipments to Ukraine if the country does not pay upfront for its June deliveries, citing the country’s debts totaling $3.51 billion.
Nearly 15 percent of all natural gas consumed in Europe is delivered from Russia via Ukraine and previous disputes in 2006 and 2009 with Russia disrupted supplies to parts of the EU.
The US and its Western European allies have accused Russia of fomenting unrest in Ukraine’s east after the fall of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in February.
Moscow strongly denies the allegations.