EU takes major step toward Russian oil ban, new sanctions

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Brussels: The European Union’s top official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in the sixth package of sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

“We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets,” von der Leyen said.

The proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate. Von der Leyen conceded that getting all 27 member countries — some of them landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies — to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy.”

The EU gets about 25 percent of its oil from Russia, most of which goes toward gasoline and diesel for vehicles. If approved, the ban on oil imports would be the second package of EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry since the country invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

In a video message posted on Twitter, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine is not happy as it will be delayed for several months, but “it’s better than nothing.”

The EU has also started discussions on a possible natural gas embargo, but the consensus among member countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes is more difficult to secure. The region gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

Hungary and Slovakia previously said they wouldn’t take part in any oil sanctions. Von der Leyen didn’t elaborate on whether they would receive an exemption from the sanctions, although it appeared likely.

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