China’s imports of oil from Russia in May rose 55pc year on year, customs data showed on Monday, with the West sanctioning fuel imports from Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. The world’s second-biggest economy imported around 8.42m tonnes of oil from Russia last month, as Beijing continued to refuse to condemn Moscow’s war. The latest number was a spike from the 5.44m tonnes China imported in May 2021, according to figures from the Customs Administration, helping Russia to overtake Saudi Arabia as China’s main source of oil. In May, China imported 7.82m tonnes of oil from Saudi Arabia. The new customs data comes four months into the war in Ukraine, with other buyers avoiding Russian energy imports. Although demand in China remains muted, there has been some improvement in the past month as cities began to loosen virus restrictions after the country’s worst Covid outbreak since the early days of the pandemic. This has allowed some supply chain problems to ease and industrial production to pick up, official data showed. China’s latest purchases of Russian oil marked a record amount, according to Bloomberg News. Beijing — which has repeatedly refused to condemn Moscow’s bloody invasion of Ukraine — has also been accused of providing diplomatic cover for Russia by blasting Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv. Once bitter Cold War enemies, Beijing and Moscow have stepped up cooperation in recent years as a counterbalance to what they see as US global dominance. The pair have drawn closer in the political, trade and military spheres as part of what they call a “no limits” relationship.