EU leaders agree to ban 90% of Russian oil by the end of the year – Times of India


BRUSSELS: European Union leaders agreed on Monday to bring most of Russia’s oil imports into the bloc by the end of the year as part of new sanctions against Moscow elaborated at a summit aimed at helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of new financial aid.
The embargo concerns Russian oil transported by sea, allowing for a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline, a step that was crucial in getting landlocked Hungary on board a decision that required consensus.
EU Council President Charles Michel said the agreement covers more than two-thirds of Russia’s oil imports. Ursula Von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive, said the punitive measure “will reduce about 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year”.
Michel said the leaders also agreed to provide Ukraine with a 9 billion euro ($9.7 billion) tranche to support the war-torn country’s economy. It was unclear whether the money would come in grants or loans.
The new package of sanctions also includes an asset freeze and a travel ban on individuals, while Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, will be banned from SWIFT, the main global financial transfer system from which the EU previously banned several smaller Russian banks. Three major Russian state broadcasters are banned from distributing their content in the EU.
“We want to stop the Russian war machine,” Michel said, praising what he called a “remarkable achievement”.
“More than ever it is important to show that we can be strong, that we can be steadfast, that we can be strong,” he added.
Michel said the new sanctions, which required the support of all 27 member states, will be ratified by law on Wednesday.
The EU had already imposed five rounds of sanctions on Russia over its war. It has individually targeted more than 1,000 people, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior government officials, as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal sector and more.
But the sixth package of measures announced on May 4 has been held up by concerns over oil supplies.
The stalemate embarrassed the bloc, which was forced to phase out its ambitions to break down the Hungarian resistance. When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed the package, the original goal was to phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
Both Michel and von der Leyen said leaders will return to the issue soon, to ensure that Russia’s pipeline oil exports to the EU are banned at a later date.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had made it clear that he could only support the new sanctions if his country’s oil supply was guaranteed. Hungary gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and relies on Soviet-era crude through the Druzhba pipeline.
Von der Leyen had reduced the chances of a breakthrough at the top. But the leaders reached a compromise after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged them to end “internal quarrels that only push Russia to put more and more pressure on all of Europe”.
The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and divisions over the issue exposed the limits of the 27-nation trading bloc’s ambitions.
In his 10-minute video speech, Zelenskyy told leaders to end “internal quarrels that only push Russia to put more and more pressure on all of Europe”.
He said the sanction package “must be agreed, it must be effective, including (un)oil” so that Moscow “feels the price for what it is doing against Ukraine” and the rest of Europe. Only then, Zelenskyy said, will Russia be forced to “seek peace.”
It was not the first time he demanded that the EU target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and deprive Moscow of billions of dollars in supply payments every day.
But Hungary led a group of EU countries concerned about the impact of the oil ban on their economies, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Hungary relies heavily on Russia for energy and cannot afford to turn off its pumps. In addition to the need for Russian oil, Hungary gets 85% of its natural gas from Russia.
Orban was adamant on his arrival at the summit in Brussels that a deal was not in sight, stressing Hungary’s need to secure its energy supply.
Von der Leyen and Michel said Germany and Poland’s commitment to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year and abandon oil from the northern part of the Druzhba pipeline will help reduce 90% of Russian oil imports.
The issue of food security will be on the table on Tuesday, with leaders urging their governments to accelerate work on “solidarity routes” to help Ukraine export grain and other products.

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