The European Union is set to propose Tuesday a phased-in embargo on Russian oil imports, the delisting of more Russian banks from the Swift payment messaging system and fresh sanctions targeted at people spreading disinformation on Russia’s war in Ukraine, EU officials said Tuesday.
The EU’s foreign policy chief
on Tuesday became the first EU official to set out the key parts of a new sixth sanctions package against Russia drawn up by the EU’s executive body and which will be presented to member states for their approval. The European Commission met Tuesday afternoon and is expected to circulate the list of proposed measures by the evening, officials have said.
The bloc’s 27 member states, which can only adopt the measures unanimously, will discuss the proposal Wednesday and could make a decision as early as this week, although diplomats said differences remained between capitals on some of the proposed sanctions.
“Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine affects global security. We are working on the 6th package of sanctions which aims to de-swift more banks, list disinformation actors and tackle oil imports. These measures will be presented to” EU member states “for approval,” Mr. Borrell said on Twitter.
The EU’s move toward banning Russian oil imports marks a particularly significant escalation for the bloc because of the importance of energy exports to the Russian economy. It is also potentially costly for Europe, which is highly reliant on Russian hydrocarbons for transportation, heating, power generation and industrial production.
The move comes after Russia cut gas deliveries to two member states last week and reflects what western officials say is the absence of signs that the Kremlin is willing to scale back its military incursion into Ukraine.
As Europe races to wean itself off Russian energy, American natural-gas producers are struggling to meet the demand and prices are rising. Factors including extreme weather and equipment needs have created a bottleneck amid the war in Ukraine. Illustration: Laura Kammermann and Sharon Shi
The Kremlin said Russian President
warned French President
on Tuesday that the West should stop arming Ukraine, in a conversation that lasted over two hours.
Mr. Borrell’s comment confirmed parts of a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that the EU is set to propose phasing out purchases of Russian crude oil and refined oil products this year.
Two EU diplomats said the Commission was looking at proposing a ban on purchases of Russian crude oil after six months, prohibiting purchases of refined oil products by year-end and at giving Hungary and Slovakia 12 months to stop Russian oil purchases. However the diplomats hadn’t seen the final commission proposal, which had yet to be circulated by late afternoon.
The proposal will also ask member states to place sanctions on three Russian banks, including the country’s largest lender
It wasn’t clear whether the Commission would propose sanctioning all transactions with Sberbank or just knocking it off the Swift financial messaging network. At least one Belarusian bank is also set to be barred from using the system.
Knocking banks off Swift can significantly complicate their ability to make and receive payments internationally but it falls short of a full ban on transactions, which effectively shuts the banks out of international markets.
The EU is set to keep sanctions off Russia’s Gazprombank, which EU member states are using to make payments for Russian gas.
Diplomats said there could be some tough discussions on a number of points in the package although a broad consensus has emerged in favor of an oil embargo.
Hungary has repeatedly warned it could veto an oil package that doesn’t give it enough time and enough financial assistance to set up the infrastructure needed to wean itself off Russian oil pipeline deliveries. Diplomats said at least two more member states, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, have argued that if Hungary and Slovakia are given more time to stop buying Russian oil exports, they should be given the same leeway.
There have been different views over what measure to take against Sberbank, and some member states, including Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine, have urged the EU to move toward a full energy import ban, including gas. That remains off the table for now despite Russia’s decision to stop gas deliveries to Bulgaria and Poland.
However, with Germany and other countries rapidly reducing their imports of Russian oil and gas, most officials believe a sixth sanctions package could be agreed in the next few days.
“Our goal is simple: We must break the Russian war machine,” European Council President
said about sanctions. “And I am confident that the Council will imminently impose further sanctions, notably on Russian oil.”
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU was importing between 3 million and 3.5 million barrels of oil a day from Russia, sending just under $400 million in payments daily, according to Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. That amounts to around 27% of EU oil imports.
Oil-and-gas revenues accounted for 45% of Russia’s federal government budget in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.
Germany said last week that it is rapidly reducing its reliance on Russian oil by arranging new oil-supply contacts. Berlin said that only 12% of the country’s oil imports currently come from Russia, down from 35% before Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Berlin says it has also reduced Russian gas to 35% of its gas imports, down from 55%, in that time. The country is rapidly replacing Russian energy with imports from the U.S., Norway and Gulf countries, according to a German government official.
Write to Laurence Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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