EU plans to ban Russian oil; Ukraine reports violent eastern attack

  • EU proposes toughest sanctions yet on Russia
  • Biden to discuss further sanctions with G7 leaders this week
  • Russia targets Western arms supplies to Ukraine
  • More evacuees are leaving in buses from Mariupol

Kyiv/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union on Wednesday proposed its toughest sanctions yet on Russia, including a phased oil embargo, as Moscow launched an offensive in eastern Ukraine and Belarus, its close ally, announced military exercises. wide range.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russia is intensifying its offensive after nearly ten weeks of war that has killed thousands of people and devastated Ukrainian cities, as attacks on railway stations used to transport Western weapons were reported.

A new convoy of buses has begun evacuating more civilians from the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting of the war to date. Moscow pledged to halt some military operations this week to allow for more evacuations.

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Adding to the pressure on Russia’s already faltering $1.8 trillion economy, Brussels has proposed phasing out imports of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of this year.

“(President Vladimir) Putin must pay a heavy price for his brutal aggression,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, praising EU lawmakers in Strasbourg. Read more

The plan, if approved by all 27 EU governments, would follow the US and British oil embargo and be a turning point for the world’s largest trading bloc, which still depends on Russian energy and must find alternative supplies.

US President Joe Biden said he will speak to other G7 leaders this week about possible further steps against Moscow. “We are always open to additional sanctions,” Biden told reporters in Washington. Read more

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the news from the European Union, but stressed the urgent need to act to starve the Russian war machine.

“My position is simple: every euro you pay to Russia for gas, oil or other goods ends up as shells of ammunition in Ukraine to kill my countrymen,” he told Austrian TV Poles 4 in an interview.

The Kremlin said Russia was considering different responses to the EU plan, adding that the measures would be costly for European citizens.

A source said EU envoys could reach an agreement on Thursday or later this week on the plan, which also targets Russia’s largest bank, its broadcasting stations and hundreds of individuals.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu renewed his warning that Moscow would seek to strike US and NATO arms shipments to Ukraine.

His ministry said Russian forces had disrupted six railway stations that were used to transport Western weapons to eastern Ukraine. It later said it had bombed 77 military targets throughout the day, including ammunition and artillery depots.

Ukrainian authorities said 18 missiles were fired by Russian strategic bombers “with the intent of damaging the transport infrastructure of our country” and confirmed an attack on the railways.

Announcing a surprise military exercise, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense declared that it did not pose any threat to the neighbors, but the Ukrainian border service said that it could not rule out the joining of Belarusian forces to the Russian offensive.

“So we are ready,” said spokesman Andrei Demchenko.

Some Russian forces entered Ukraine via Belarus when the invasion began on February 24, but so far no Belarusian forces have engaged in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and defend its Russian-speaking population from fascists.

Kyiv and its Western supporters say Moscow’s fascist claim is a pretext for an unjustified war of aggression that has driven more than 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad.

The Kremlin on Wednesday denied speculation that Putin will formally declare war on Ukraine and decree national mobilization on May 9, when Russia celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Putin is scheduled to deliver a speech and oversee a military parade on May 9 in Moscow’s Red Square.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said the convoy leaving Mariupol, organized by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, was heading to the Ukraine-controlled city of Zaporizhia.

The Russian military said it would halt military activity during the day 5, 6 and 7 May to allow civilians out of Azovstal’s steel mills, as civilians and defenders are standing up against Russian forces that have captured the city.

The Russian military said humanitarian corridors would be opened “for the evacuation of civilians (workers, women and children) whose presence in the underground facilities of the plant was announced by the Kyiv authorities.”

The first evacuees from Azovstal arrived by bus in Zaporizhia on Tuesday after taking shelter for weeks in bunkers under the sprawling Soviet-era complex. Read more

Enjoying her first sunny day after two months working underground, Tetiana Trotsak said she couldn’t stop thinking about those she thought were still stuck in a shelter they shared.

“I am very concerned about the civilians and wounded soldiers who are still there,” the 25-year-old employee of Mariupol Energy said on Wednesday. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the United Nations to help rescue more people from Azovstal.

“The lives of the people who remained there are in danger. Everyone is important to us. We ask for your help in saving them,” Zelensky said in a statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Russia now claims control of Mariupol, which was once a city of 400,000 but largely reduced to rubble after weeks of siege and bombardment. It is key to Moscow’s efforts to isolate Ukraine from the Black Sea – vital for grain and mineral exports – and to connect Russian-controlled territories in the south and east.

Along with the eastern Donbass region, the southern coast is Moscow’s main target after its forces failed to capture the capital, Kyiv, in the weeks following its conquest.

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Additional reporting by Pavel Politiuk and Tom Palmforth in Kyiv and Alessandra Prentice in Zaporizhia; Written by Gareth Jones, Thomas Janowski and Ramy Ayoub. Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Frank Jack Daniel’s, Rosalba O’Brien

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