EU leaders agree on partial Russian oil embargo

Brussels (AFP) – European Union leaders reached a compromise on Monday to impose a partial oil embargo on Russia at a summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-awaited package of sanctions that Hungary blocked.

The softened ban covers only Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for pipeline-delivered imports.

EU Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter that the agreement covers more than two-thirds of Russia’s oil imports, “cutting off a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war.”

The European Union had already imposed five previous rounds of sanctions on Russia over its war. It targeted more than a thousand people, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior government officials, as well as loyal oligarchs to the Kremlin, banks, the coal sector and more.

But the sixth package of measures announced on May 4 was held back by concerns about oil supplies.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has made it clear that he can support the new sanctions only if the security of his country’s oil supplies is guaranteed. The landlocked country gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and relies on crude oil that comes through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

This is an urgent news update. The previous story for the Associated Press follows below.

Brussels (AFP) – European Union leaders struggled Monday to agree to an oil embargo on Russia, as Ukraine’s president urged them to put aside their differences and endorse a long-awaited package of sanctions aimed at increasing economic pressure on Moscow to stop the war. war.

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The European Union has already imposed five rounds of sanctions on Russia over its war. It has targeted more than 1,000 people, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior government officials, as well as loyal oligarchs to the Kremlin, banks, the coal sector and more.

But the sixth package of measures, announced on May 4, has been held up by concerns about oil supplies. The European Union gets about 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and the divisions embarrass the 27-nation trading bloc and expose the limits of its ambitions.

Addressing EU leaders on Monday via a video link in a 10-minute message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged an end to “the internal arguments that only pushed Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”

He said that the sanctions package “must be agreed upon, and it must be effective, including (on) the oil”, so that Moscow feels “the price of what it is doing against Ukraine” and the rest of Europe. Only then, Zelensky said, will Russia be forced to “begin the search for peace.”

This is not the first time that the European Union has called for targeting Russia’s lucrative energy sector and depriving Moscow of billions of dollars every day in supply payments.

But Hungary leads a group of European Union countries – along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria – which are highly dependent on Russian oil and cannot turn off the pumps. Hungary gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and 85% of its natural gas.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was adamant about arriving at the two-day summit in Brussels, where Czech Prime Minister Petr Viala said delaying oil sanctions on Russia could be a solution.

“We are ready to get rid of our dependence on Russian energy sources…but we are unable to do so in the short term,” Fiala said.

According to several diplomats, the leaders will try to reach an agreement on an EU ban on Russian oil brought by sea by the end of the year that will cover more than two-thirds of EU oil imports from Russia.

Orban said he might support the new sanctions if the security of Hungary’s oil supply is guaranteed. Hungary and Slovakia depend on Russian oil that runs through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

The problem with hitting Russian seaborne oil is that countries like Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands – most dependent on this format – will suffer from higher oil prices, distorting competition because Hungary will still buy cheaper Russian oil.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz urged his EU counterparts to move beyond their differences over oil, saying that member states “get a little involved in all the details and we’re forgetting the big picture”.

“It’s only money,” he said, “and the Ukrainians pay with their lives.” “Only when Russia is defeated can we feel safe in Europe.”

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz was cautiously optimistic. “Everything I hear makes it sound as if a consensus can and will happen sooner or later,” he told reporters.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has ruled out a breakthrough at the summit, saying: “My expectations are low that it will be resolved within the next 48 hours.”

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If approved, the new sanctions package would also include asset freezes and travel bans for individuals. Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, will be excluded from SWIFT, the main global system for money transfers. Three major Russian state-owned broadcasters will also be banned from distributing their content in the European Union.

The two-day summit will also focus on the European Union’s continued financial support for Ukraine – possibly approval of a 9 billion-euro ($9.7 billion) tranche of aid – and on military assistance and war crimes investigations.

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

Some protesters gathered outside EU buildings on Monday before the summit, holding up banners such as “No to Russian oil and gas”.

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Karel Janicek contributed to this story from Prague.

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

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