Russia's Ukraine attack sends oil prices soaring as UK drivers warned fuel could hit £1.55 a litre

Germany led sanctions against Russia ahead of the attack, suspending a major gas pipeline. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Oil prices have soared to levels not seen in eight years and sparked warning of pain at the fuel pumps, as Russia launches an attack on Ukraine.

The crisis has sparked fears of a fresh energy crunch, after months of global gas prices contributed to the UK's cost of living squeeze.Experts are warning UK drivers could soon see fuel prices hit £1.55 a litre - bringing the cost of a full tank of gas to an estimated £85 - as crude oil prices immediately spiked in reaction to the crisis.

Global markets reacted swiftly to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine on Thursday morning.

Starting from around 3am UK time, attacks were reported across Ukraine, including in several western cities, close to the border with Poland.

The price of Brent crude oil had jumped by 5.6% by a little after 7am UK time to 102.30 dollars per barrel, hitting its highest point since 2014.

The London Stock Exchange’s leading FTSE 100 index plunged more than 200 points, or 2.7%, within moments of opening at 8am (GMT) in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.Motorists are being warned to expect a surge in fuel prices “any time soon” as oil prices surged.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said the increase in the cost of oil will “inevitably lead to wholesale fuel prices going up, which will in turn push record pump prices even higher”.

He continued: “If the oil price were to increase to 110 US dollars per barrel there’s a very real danger the average price of petrol would hit £1.55 a litre.

"This would cause untold financial difficulties for many people who depend on their cars for getting to work and running their lives as it would skyrocket the cost of a full tank to £85.”

The FTSE 100 opens to an immediate plummet at 8am Thursday (GMT) as markets react to the crisis in Ukraine. Credit: London Stock Exchange

Earlier, trading was suspended on the Moscow Stock Exchange, and the rouble plummeted to a record low against the dollar.

Around the same time as crude oil prices leapt, the rouble tanked. The US dollar gained more than 10% against the Russian currency at one point.

Early in the morning the Moscow Stock Exchange said it had “suspended trading on all of its markets until further notice”.

A flame is seen from an area near the Dnieper river in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday. Credit: AP

But it later restarted at 10am local time (7am GMT).

The euro dropped 0.6% against the dollar before markets opened and the pound fell 0.5% against the dollar before London's Stock Exchange opened for Thursday's trading.

NATO-member countries had launched a series of sanctions against Russia in the days leading up to the attack.

Germany halted approval of the major Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

The pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany had long been criticised by the United States and some European countries who argued it increases Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.

Dr Jack Sharples, a research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told ITV News earlier this week Russia could limit gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for any sanctions, which would have a sharp effect on energy costs.

He said: "If they do anything to limit the supply the current European gas market is so tight right now that it would have an immediate effect on prices."

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday morning that he had spoken to the leaders of the UK, the US, Germany, the EU, and Poland.

He said he had “urged to stop Putin, war against (Ukraine) and the world immediately.

"Building an anti-Putin coalition. Immediate sanctions, defence and financial support to (Ukraine). Close the airspace. The world must force (Russia) into peace.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted in response to the unfolding crisis early Thursday morning, saying he had spoken to his counterpart as he condemned Putin's actions.

The UK leader wrote: "I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps.

"President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. "The UK and our allies will respond decisively."