However, India's Russian oil imports are expected to slow in the coming months as the United States steps up shipping sanctions, forcing refiners to look for alternatives.

The latest sanctions target Russia's leading tanker group Sovcomflot, which Washington accuses of being involved in violating the G7 price cap, as well as 14 tankers tied to the shipping company.

Discounts on Russian oil, which have already declined to around $3.5-$4 per barrel, are also expected to fall further as sanctions are seen as driving up freight costs.

India's Russian oil imports rose to about 1.46 million barrels per day in February, which ship tracking firm Kpler put at a 7.6% increase from the previous month while data provided by Vortexa indicated a 11.7% rise.

The world's third-largest oil importer and consumer also increased imports of Saudi Arabian grades but reduced intake of Iraqi oil, according to the data.

Vortexa analyst Emma Li said Indian refiners had not bought the Sokol grade in December and January due to payment issues, with the resumption driving February's rise in Russian imports.

India last year emerged as a top buyer of sea-borne Russian oil sold at a discount after Western countries halted imports following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Here is a table of India's preliminary imports from its top three suppliers. Volumes are in 1,000 bpd.

Country LSEG Kpler Vortexa

Feb Jan %Chg Feb Jan %Chg Feb Jan %Chg

Russia 1486 1257 18.2 1463 1360 7.6 1456 1303 11.7

Saudi Arabia 838 668 25.6 866 708 22.3 825 687 20.1

Iraq 966 1182 -18.2 868 1191 -27.1 848 1181 -28.2

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

By Nidhi Verma and Mohi Narayan