Update on the Russia-Ukraine war: In a major blow, the EU bans imports of most of Russia’s oil

BRUSSELS — In the most significant effort yet to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine, the European Union agreed to ban the overwhelming majority of Russian oil imports after tense negotiations that exposed cracks in the bloc’s united front.

From the moment Russia invaded on February 24, the West has sought to target Moscow’s lucrative energy sector in order to cut off funding for its war. But any such move is a double-edged sword, particularly in Europe, which relies on the country for 25% of its oil and 40% of its gas. European countries, which are even more dependent on Russia, are particularly cautious.

In a move unthinkable just a few months ago, EU leaders agreed late Monday to cut around 90% of all Russian oil imports over the next six months.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called the embargo a “major step forward” and Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin hailed it as “a turning point”. But both leaders warned that Europe would need time to adjust to the impact – and further bans on Russian energy would be slow to come.

In response to the EU’s decision, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, said on Twitter: “Russia will find other importers.”

Russia, too, has not shied away from holding back its energy supplies, despite the economic damage it could suffer as a result. Russian energy giant Gazprom on Tuesday announced it would halt natural gas supplies to Dutch trader GasTerra and is considering cutting off Denmark. Bulgaria, Poland and Finland have already turned off the tap.

GasTerra said the move was announced after rejecting Gazprom’s “unilateral payment requests.” This is a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for European nations to pay for gas in rubles – an agreement many have rejected. GasTerra said homes would not be hit as it had purchased gas elsewhere in anticipation of a shutdown.

Talks at EU headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday were to focus on ways to end the trading bloc’s reliance on Russian energy by diversifying supplies and accelerating the transition to renewable sources and as much as possible from fossil fuels given recent price increases is moved away.

Leaders are also expected to discuss how to help Ukraine export millions of tons of grain locked in the country amid a global food crisis mounting.

EU leaders plan to ask Russia to end its attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and lift its blockade of Black Sea ports to allow food to be shipped. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia prevented the export of 22 million tons of grain, much of it destined for people in the Middle East and Africa. He accused Moscow of “consciously creating this problem.”

For other developments:

– According to the mayor, Russian troops have taken about half of an important city in eastern Ukraine. Analysts have portrayed the battle for Sievierodonetsk as part of a race against time for the Kremlin: the city is key to Russia’s effort to quickly complete the conquest of the eastern industrial region of the Donbass before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defenses strengthen.

– A court in Ukraine on Tuesday convicted two Russian soldiers of war crimes for shelling civilian buildings. It sentenced both to 11 1/2 years in prison, ending the country’s second war crimes trial since the Russian invasion.

The EU oil embargo, which is part of a new package of sanctions that will also target Russia’s largest bank and state media accused of spreading propaganda, affects crude oil and petroleum products but has an exception for oil delivered by pipeline becomes.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for this exception, making it clear that he could only support the new sanctions if his country’s oil supply security was guaranteed. Hungary gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia, much of it through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

The EU estimated that around 90% of Russian oil would be banned by the end of the year. That number includes a ban on all Russian oil shipped by sea – which accounts for two-thirds of EU imports – and a decision by Germany and Poland to stop using oil from the northern branch of the Druzhba pipeline.

The sanctions package has yet to be finalized in the coming days – and leaders said the exemption for crude oil delivered by pipeline will be reviewed “as soon as possible”, although they have not specified when.

The agreed compromise reflects the increasing difficulty of forging consensus among EU leaders when key national interests are at stake – and the way Hungary has emerged as a thorn in the side of the bloc.

But despite the fighting, the sanctions package — the sixth against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — was agreed in about a month, fairly quickly for 27 countries with vastly different national interests.

Agreeing on another round of measures is likely to prove much more difficult — especially with the next item on the agenda being whether to target natural gas, which is much more difficult to get off the ground. That’s because it makes up a larger percentage of Europe’s energy mix.

The compromise came after Zelenskyi again urged leaders to target Russia’s oil.

Only when Moscow “feels the price of what it is doing against Ukraine” will it be forced “to start looking for peace,” he said in a video address.

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Mike Corder in The Hague, The Netherlands contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/russia-ukraine-war-news-vladimir-putin-russian-military/11911453/ Update on the Russia-Ukraine war: In a major blow, the EU bans imports of most of Russia’s oil

Dais Johnston

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