Nature

EU chief calls for Russian oil ban in new round of sanctions


BRUSSELS — The top European Union official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in a sixth round of sanctions against Moscow for his war in Ukraine.

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

“We will ensure that Russian oil is phased out in an orderly manner, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimize the impact on global markets,” von der said. Leyen.

The proposals must be unanimously approved to enter into force and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate. Von der Leyen conceded that getting the 27 member countries – some of them landlocked and heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies – to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy”.

The EU gets about 25% of its oil from Russia, most of which is used for gasoline and diesel for vehicles. Russia supplies around 14% of the diesel, according to S&P Global analysts, and a cut could drive up already high fuel prices for trucks and tractors.

If approved, the oil import ban will be the second set of EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry following its war in Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin launched on February 24. In addition to sanctions against various entities and individuals, including Putin himself and members of his family – the bloc had previously approved an embargo on coal imports.

The EU has started discussions on a possible embargo on natural gas, but consensus among member countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes is more difficult to achieve. The region gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

In a sign of the political pressure von der Leyen has faced to expand EU sanctions on Russian energy, some members of the European Parliament stepped up calls on Wednesday for the bloc to also target natural gas imports from Russia. .

“It’s great news that we are making progress on the oil embargo,” said Luis Garicano, a Spanish member of the EU Assembly, after von der Leyen’s announcement. “But as you know, this is far from what this Parliament wants. We actually called for a full oil and gas embargo a month ago.

Hungary and Slovakia have already said they will not participate in any oil sanctions, but von der Leyen did not say whether they would receive a waiver from the sanctions, although it seems likely.

Von der Leyen also said the EU should target high-ranking military officers and others “who committed war crimes in Bucha”, a suburb of the capital kyiv. Ukrainian officials alleged that retreating Russian troops had committed massacres of civilians in Bucha.

“This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin war: we know who you are. We will hold you accountable. You don’t get away with it,” von der Leyen told lawmakers.

Von der Leyen said Putin’s intention was “to wipe Ukraine off the map”, but predicted he would fail in his murderous endeavor.

“On the contrary, Ukraine has risen in bravery and unity,” she said. “And it is his own country, Russia, that Putin is sinking.”

The banks are also in the crosshairs of the European executive, and in particular Sberbank. Von der Leyen said the goal was to “de-SWIFT Sberbank”. SWIFT is the world’s leading financial transfer system.

Von der Leyen said Sberbank owns around 37% of Russia’s banking sector.

“And we will also remove SWIFT from two other major banks in Russia. By this, we are hitting banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to wreak destruction,” she said.

Von der Leyen added that those suspected of spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine would be targeted.

“We are banning three major Russian public broadcasters from our airwaves. They will no longer be allowed to distribute their content in the EU in any form, whether via cable, satellite, the internet or via smartphone apps. .

She did not name the broadcasters directly, but called the TV stations “mouthpieces that aggressively amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda.” We shouldn’t give them a stage to spread these lies anymore.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

ABC News

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