E.U. to Ban 90% of Russian Oil by the End of the Year

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders agreed Monday to embargo most Russian oil imports into the bloc by year-end as part of new sanctions on Moscow worked out at a summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of new financial support.

Russian oil imported by sea is subject to the embargo. However, an exemption can be granted for pipeline imports. This was a crucial move in order to get landlocked Hungary aboard a consensus-based decision.

Charles Michel, the President of EU Council, stated that the agreement includes more than half of Russia’s oil imports. Ursula Von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive branch, said the punitive move will “effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year.”

Michel said leaders also agreed to provide Ukraine with a 9 billion-euro ($9.7 billion) tranche of assistance to support the war-torn country’s economy. Uncertain whether the money would come as loans or grants was unknown.

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Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, responded to the EU’s decision on Twitter, saying: “As she rightly said yesterday, Russia will find other importers.”

The new package of sanctions will also include an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals, while Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, will be excluded from SWIFT, the major global system for financial transfers from which the EU previously banned several smaller Russian banks. The EU will block three major Russian state-owned radio stations from publishing their content.

“We want to stop Russia’s war machine,” Michel said, lauding what he called a “remarkable achievement.”

“More than ever it’s important to show that we are able to be strong, that we are able to be firm, that we are able to be tough,” he added.

Michel indicated that Wednesday will see the legal approval of the new sanctions. They needed to be supported by all 27 member states.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian President is seen, on a monitor, speaking from Kyiv, during an extraordinarily special meeting of EU leaders. The event was held at Brussels’ Europa Building, Monday, May 30, 2022.

AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

E.U. Concerns about Russian oil supplies

Five rounds of previous sanctions were imposed by the EU on Russia for its involvement in war. This has included Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as top government officials, as well as proKremlin banks and oligarchs.

However, the sixth package of measures that was announced on May 4, had to be rescheduled due to concerns about oil supply.

The impasse embarrassed the bloc, which was forced to scale down its ambitions to break Hungary’s resistance. Ursula von der Leyen, President of European Commission, proposed the package. The initial goal was to eliminate crude oil imports within six months. Refined products would be phased out by year’s end.

Both Michel and von der Leyen said leaders will soon return to the issue, seeking to guarantee that Russia’s pipeline oil exports to the EU are banned at a later date.

Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban had made clear he could support the new sanctions only if his country’s oil supply security was guaranteed. Hungary imports more oil than 60% from Russia, and is dependent on the Soviet-era Druzhba crude pipeline.

Von der Leyen had downplayed the possibility of a breakthrough during the summit. But leaders reached a compromise after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged them to end “internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole 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.

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In his 10-minute video address, Zelenskyy told leaders to end “internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”

He said the sanctions package must “be agreed on, it needs to be effective, including (on) 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 “start seeking peace.”

It was not the first time he had demanded that the EU target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and deprive Moscow of billions of dollars each day in supply payments.

Hungary was among a number of EU nations concerned about the effects of the ban on oil. This included Slovakia, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic. Hungary relies heavily on Russia for energy and can’t afford to turn off the pumps. Russia provides Hungary with over 85% its natural gas.

Orban was insistent upon arriving at Brussels’ summit that no deal would be reached, stressing the importance of Hungary having its energy supply secure.

Michel and Von der Leyen said that Poland and Germany have committed to phaseout Russian oil by the end the year, and will forgo oil from Druzhba’s northern portion to reduce Russian oil imports.

The issue of food security will be on the table Tuesday, with the leaders set to encourage their governments to speed up work on “solidarity lanes” to help Ukraine export grain and other produce.

Karel Janicek, Prague contributed to this article

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