(Bloomberg) -- China’s state-owned oil majors have stepped up Russian imports in a sign that Beijing is ready to give the go-ahead for more purchases of the country’s crude, according to industry consultants Energy Aspects.

PetroChina Co. and CNOOC Ltd. recently resumed imports of waterborne Russian oil, with at least three supertankers of Urals-grade crude signaling China as a destination, EA analysts wrote in a note, without saying where they got the information. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, may also increase its intake of the flagship Urals in the coming months, the analysts said.

Sinopec declined to comment, while PetroChina and CNOOC didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg News queries. 

Chinese state refiners have kept a low profile when it comes to Russian purchases, and have been waiting on the sidelines to increase imports of grades such as Urals due to the lack of clear instructions from Beijing, according to EA’s Feb. 8 note. Now, the Chinese government is ready to allow more majors to procure Russian crude loaded in Europe, the analysts wrote.

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Separately, private refiners known as teapots have continued to buy Russia’s ESPO and Sokol grades after a short hiatus in early December to resolve issues stemming from banking and insurance after the Group of Seven price cap.

China’s daily oil imports from Russia could increase by as much as 500,000 barrels this year to about 2.2 million barrels. That could rise to 2.5 million barrels if Beijing decides to take more Urals to refill its commercial or strategic petroleum reserves.

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