EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has vowed the bloc’s latest ban on Russian oil imports, which will cut flows to the bloc by more than two-thirds, will lower the price Moscow can ask for for its crude while having an impact on the quantity of crude. Moscow will sell abroad.
The ban, agreed late on May 30, will not immediately affect oil imports by pipeline, following opposition from landlocked Hungary.
“We are the most important customer for Russia,” Borrell told reporters upon arriving for the second day of an EU summit in Brussels on May 31.
“The goal is to ensure that Russia has fewer financial resources to fuel its war machine,” he added.
On the first day of the summit, the leaders of the 27 EU member states agreed on a compromise deal that cuts more than two-thirds of Russian oil imports from the bloc.
The new agreement, reached at a summit in Brussels, followed weeks of wrangling until it was agreed that there would be “a temporary exemption for oil moving through pipelines to the EU,” said European Council President Charles Michel. told reporters May 30.
However, Michel said the deal cut “a huge source of funding for [Russia’s] war machine.”
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The EU proposed the ban a month ago, but resistance, mainly from Budapest, which imports two-thirds of its oil from Russia via pipelines, has delayed the latest round of sanctions.
Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which like Hungary are landlocked, also asked for more time due to their dependence on Russian oil. Bulgaria, already cut off from Russian gas by Gazprom, had also requested exemptions.
“It’s a fair compromise…it’s the best we could get,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters May 31 as she arrived for the second day of the summit.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban repeated that a total embargo would have been an “atomic bomb” for the Hungarian economy.
“It would have been unbearable for us to run the Hungarian economy on the most expensive (non-Russian) oil…it would have been an atomic bomb but we managed to avoid that,” Orban said in a statement. video posted on Facebook.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that despite the temporary pipeline oil exemption, the ban would have a wider impact, as Germany and Poland volunteered to reduce their own pipeline imports by the end of this year.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the new sanctions had a clear goal: “to induce Russia to end this war and withdraw its troops and agree with Ukraine on a reasonable and just peace”.
Ukraine estimated the ban could cost Russia tens of billions of dollars.
“The oil embargo will speed up the countdown to the collapse of the Russian economy and war machine,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed the new measures, which are part of a sixth EU sanctions package against Russia. But he criticized what he called an “unacceptable” delay in the deal.
“When more than 50 days have passed between the fifth and the sixth sanctions package, the situation is not acceptable for us,” Zelenskiy said, speaking alongside Slovak President Zuzana Caputova in Kyiv.
Russia’s response came from Dmitry Medvedev, former president and prime minister.
“They all hate us! The basis of these decisions is hatred of Russia, Russians and all its inhabitants,” Medvedev said on Telegram.
The leaders also agreed to cut Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT messaging system, ban three other Russian public broadcasters and impose sanctions on those responsible for war crimes, Michel said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier told EU leaders that their sixth sanctions package must be agreed and include oil, “so that Russia feels the price of what it is doing against Ukraine and the whole of Europe, and for you to finally become independent of Russia’s energy weapons.
He urged EU leaders to show strength as they push to pass the new sanctions, saying internal “quarrels” only benefit Moscow.
“Europe must show strength because Russia only sees strength as an argument,” Zelenskiy said. said on May 30 in a speech at an EU summit intended to bolster the bloc’s support for Ukraine in its battle to defend itself against invading Russian forces.
In a video message to EU leaders, Zelenskiy said it was time for the European Union not to be fragmented but “one whole”, calling for a new round of sanctions against Russia, including a ban on the Russian oil.