By Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil extended declines on Thursday as geopolitical tensions eased slightly and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in China added to worries over demand in the world’s largest crude importer.

Poland and NATO on Wednesday said a missile that crashed inside NATO member Poland was probably a stray fired by Ukraine’s air defences and not a Russian strike, easing fears of the war between Russia and Ukraine spilling across the border.

“Thankfully, those fears have abated and the situation de-escalated, which has seen oil gains unwound,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. “China remains a downside risk for oil in the near term.”

Brent crude was down $1.09, or 1.2%, at $91.77 a barrel by 1445 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude slid $1.61, or 1.9%, to $83.98.

China reported rising daily COVID-19 infections and Chinese refiners have asked to reduce Saudi crude volume in December, Reuters has reported, while also slowing Russian crude purchases.

“Struggling Chinese consumption is embodied in sinking domestic need for both Russian and Saudi crude oil,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

While China’s COVID caseload is small compared with the rest of the world, it maintains stringent policies to quash outbreaks before they spread, dampening fuel demand.

Oil gained some support from official figures that U.S. crude stocks fell by a bigger than expected 5 million barrels in the most recent week. [EIA/S]

Supply is also tightening in November as OPEC and its allies, known colletively as OPEC+, implement their latest output controls to support the market.

(Reporting by Alex LawlerAdditional reporting by Emily Chow and Jeslyn LerhEditing by Mark Potter and David Goodman)