EU takes big step toward Russian oil embargo, new sanctions

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union’s top official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s largest bank and major broadcasters in a sixth package of sanctions over… war in ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, has proposed that EU member states phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

“We will make sure we get rid of it gradually Russian oil In an organized way, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and reduce the impact on global markets,” von der Leyen said.

Proposals must be approved unanimously to take effect and are likely to be the subject of intense debate. Von der Leyen acknowledged that getting all 27 member states – some of which are landlocked and rely heavily on Russia for energy supplies – to agree to oil sanctions “would not be easy”.

The European Union gets about 25% of its oil from Russia, most of which goes to gasoline and diesel for cars. Standard & Poor’s Global analysts said Russia supplies about 14% of diesel fuel, and production cuts could push up already high prices for truck and tractor fuel.

If approved, the ban on oil imports would be the second round of EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry since the country invaded Ukraine on February 24.

In a video message posted on Twitter, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed von der Leyen’s proposal for an oil embargo. He said Ukraine was not happy with it being postponed for several months, but it was “better than nothing”.

“I think what should be clear by now is that (the time) for half-sanctions or half-measures when it comes to sanctions is over,” Kuleba said, arguing that the EU can no longer support Ukraine on the one hand by imposing sanctions, while continuing to pay The price of oil and gas for Russia and support for the “war machine”.

He said, “As long as Russia continues to receive revenue in the billions… from the European Union… we cannot talk about Russia’s defeat.” And they will continue to finance their war machine with oil and gas revenues.

In addition to the sanctions imposed on various entities and individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and his family members, the European Union has previously agreed to a ban on coal imports.

The European Union has begun discussions on a possible ban on natural gas, but consensus among member states on targeting fuels used to generate electricity and heat homes is more difficult. The region gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

Hungary and Slovakia have previously said they will not participate in any oil sanctions. Von der Leyen did not say if they would receive a waiver of the penalties, although it seemed likely.

Slovak Economy Minister Richard Solek said on Wednesday that Slovakia is not against punitive measures but is calling for a three-year transition period. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said his country was ready to support the package but also needed more time – about two or three years – before it could implement an embargo on Russian oil, in order to increase the pipelines’ ability to get oil. from other sources.

Ukraine’s Kuleba said any country that continued to oppose the embargo on Russian oil could be considered “complicit in the crimes committed by Russia on the territory of Ukraine.”

The EU and Russia are playing the “chicken game. It’s hard to say who will swerve/blink first. The Russians fear they are running out of money. Or Europe for fear of the lights out,” said James Nixie, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House think-tank in London.

Von der Leyen also said the EU should target senior military officers and others “who committed war crimes in Bucha”, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian officials claimed that the retreating Russian forces carried out mass killings of civilians in Bucha.

This sends another important signal to all the Kremlin war enforcers: We know who you are. We will charge you. “You don’t get away with this,” von der Leyen told lawmakers.

EU diplomats confirmed that the European Commission’s plans also include an asset freeze and travel ban for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The diplomats had first-hand knowledge of the discussions but were not allowed to speak publicly as negotiations continued.

Kirill is a longtime ally of Putin and has justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Von der Leyen said Putin’s intention was to “wipe Ukraine off the map,” but predicted that he would fail in his deadly project. “Ukraine rose up with courage and unity,” she said. And his country, Russia, is where Putin is drowning.

Banks are also in the sights of the EU’s executive arm, in particular Russia’s largest, Sberbank. Von der Leyen said the goal is to “dismantle SWIFT Sberbank”. SWIFT is the main global system for money transfers, and the European Union has already excluded many smaller Russian banks from it.

“We will also dismantle the SWIFT system of two other major banks in Russia. With this we will have hit banks of systemic importance to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to launch destruction.”

Von der Leyen added that those allegedly spreading misinformation about the war in Ukraine would be targeted.

We are blocking three major Russian state-owned broadcasting stations from our airwaves. They will no longer be allowed to distribute their content in the European Union, in any shape or form, whether it be via cable, via satellite, the internet or via smartphone apps.

Von der Leyen did not name the announcers but described the TV channels as “the mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively. We must not give them a chance any longer to spread these lies.”


Danica Kirka in London and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.


Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war on