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Brussels proposes a progressive embargo on Russian oil

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The European Union (EU) launched this Wednesday the proposal to gradually block its oil imports from Russia, presenting its sixth package of sanctions against Moscow for the war in Ukraine.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, outlined before the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, the new package of sanctions -negotiated with the countries of the block-, and assured that it sends a message to the promoters of the war: «We know who they are, and we will hold them accountable.”

The central point of the new package presented by the EU is the explicit decision to apply an embargo on oil imports from Russia.

“We are going to phase out Russian oil deliveries over a six-month period and crude oil product deliveries by the end of the year,” von der Leyen said.

The official admitted that the task “will not be easy.” “Some member states [de la UE] heavily dependent on Russian oil. But we have to work on this », he added.

The intention, he added, is for the ban to include all Russian oil “transported by sea and by pipeline, crude and refined.”

Diplomatic sources in Brussels confided to AFP that the proposal was distributed to member countries shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

The package must be unanimously approved by the member states so that it can be implemented, and according to a diplomatic source, the list of people and entities to be sanctioned could be modified.

sensitive issue

The suspension of European imports of Russian oil is an extremely sensitive issue, since several countries in the bloc are highly dependent on crude oil from Russia to keep their industries running.

For this reason, Von der Leyen assured that the cessation of imports will be done “in a way that allows us and our partners to ensure alternative supply routes and minimize the impact on global markets.”

Internal documents to which AFP had access confirm that the proposal is to adopt an exception until 2023 for Hungary and Slovakia, two countries that depend almost entirely on Russian crude.

Shortly after von der Leyen’s speech, however, the Hungarian government lamented the absence of “guarantees” for its energy security.

“We do not see any plan or guarantee how even a transition could be managed based on the current proposals, and how it could guarantee Hungary’s energy security,” the government press office said in a message to AFP.

European countries pledged at a Versailles summit in March to gradually wean themselves off their dependence on Russian gas, oil and coal.

Russia supplied in 2021 approximately 30% of crude oil and 15% of oil derivatives purchased by the EU.

In addition, the documents consulted by AFP reveal a long list of personalities and Russian soldiers to be included among those sanctioned by the EU.

The list includes the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, as well as their family.

Von der Leyen also told Parliament that the EU intends to exclude Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT interbank network.

Hitting “banks of essential systemic importance to the Russian financial system” will reinforce that country’s “total isolation” and weaken its ability to finance the war in Ukraine, he said.

By force of EU sanctions, seven other Russian financial entities have already been excluded from the SWIFT system, an interbank messaging mechanism that allows international wire and payment orders.

A study carried out by a think tank in Finland states that since the start of the war in Ukraine, European imports of gas, oil and coal from Russia amount to 44 billion euros (more than 46 billion dollars).

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