European Council leaders have agreed on a plan to block more than two-thirds of Russian oil imports.
Brussels(Belgium)- European Council chief Charles Michel said the deal cut off “a huge source of financing” for the Russian war machine.
It is part of the sixth package of sanctions approved at a summit in Brussels, which all 27 member states have had to agree on.
Mr Michel said the EU had also agreed on hard-hitting measures targeting Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, and three state-owned broadcasters.
EU members spent hours struggling to resolve their differences over the ban on Russian oil imports, with Hungary its primary opponent.
European Council chief Charles Michel said the deal cut off “a huge source of financing” for the Russian war machine.
The compromise followed weeks of wrangling until it was agreed there would be “a temporary exemption for oil that comes through pipelines to the EU”, Mr Michel told reporters.
Because of this, the immediate sanctions will affect only Russian oil being transported into the EU over the sea – two-thirds of the total imported from Russia.
But in practice, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the ban’s scope would be broader because Germany and Poland have volunteered to wind down their pipeline imports by the end of this year.
“Leftover is around 10-11% covered by the southern Druzhba,” Ms Von der Leyen said, referring to the Russian pipeline supplying oil to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
She added that the European Council would revisit this exemption “as soon as possible”.
The ban on Russian oil imports was initially proposed by the European Commission – which develops laws for member states – a month ago.
But resistance, notably from Hungary, which imports 65% of its oil from Russia through pipelines, held up the EU’s troubled latest round of sanctions.
Other landlocked countries, such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic, also asked for more time due to their dependence on Russian oil. Bulgaria, already cut off from Russian gas by Gazprom, had likewise sought opt-outs.
The cost of a living crisis across Europe has not helped either. Sky-rocketing energy prices – among other things – have curtailed some EU countries’ appetite for sanctions which could also hurt their economies.
During the talks, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban maintained a tough stance, blaming the European Commission for failing to negotiate the ban with member countries properly.
He said that energy was a “serious issue” and “we need solutions and then the sanctions”.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who dialled into the summit, urged EU countries to stop their internal “quarrels,” stating they only helped Moscow.
“All quarrels in Europe must end, internal disputes that only encourage Russia to put more and more pressure on you,” Mr Zelensky said via video link.
“It is time for you to be not separate, not fragments, but one whole,” he said.
Latvia’s Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said member countries should not get “bogged down” in their interests.
“It’s going to cost us more. But it’s only money. The Ukrainians are paying with their lives,” he said.
In other developments:
- There is fierce fighting in Ukraine’s east, focused around the city of Severdonetsk
- According to the regional governor Serhiy Haidai, the “situation is tough” with no water, gas or electricity supplies in the city.
- French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed covering an evacuation operation for broadcaster BFMTV near the city.
- Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told French TV channel TF1 that the “liberation” of the eastern region known as the Donbas was an “unconditional priority” for Russia.
- Ukraine launched a counter-offensive to reclaim land taken by Russia around the southern city of Kherson, according to Ukraine’s military.
- The US said it would not send weapons to Ukraine that could hit targets inside Russia; President Joe Biden said