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WAR IN UKRAINE

EU's von der Leyen calls for import ban on Russian oil by year-end

This is to be managed in a phased approach to preserve the bloc's economic stability and global oil market prices

HANDOUT - 27 April 2022, Belgium, Brussels: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen chairs the weekly meeting of the European Commission. Photo: Claudio Centonze/European Commission/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Claudio Centonze/EU Commission.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled a plan for the EU to stop Russian oil imports by the end of the year, as part of the bloc's latest round of sanctions against Moscow.

The ban is to "maximize pressure on Russia," von der Leyen told a debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, adding the move "will not be easy."

The proposal to deprive Russia of a significant revenue stream comes after weeks of negotiations as EU member states wrestled with the economic fallout of an oil embargo. The plan gained momentum after Germany, a huge importer of Russian energy, announced it would support a ban.

The ban is to be managed in a phased approach to preserve the bloc's economic stability and global oil market prices, von der Leyen said, with the aim to minimize "collateral damage to us and our partners."

Crude oil imports are to be phased out first within six months and the bloc is to remove "refined products by the end of the year," von der Leyen said.

Commission sources confirmed on Tuesday a possible exemption for the ban for Slovakia and Hungary after both countries struggled to source alternative supplies due to lack of sea access.

Other sanctions

Von der Leyen also announced the expulsion of Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, from the international financial communication system, SWIFT.

The top EU official said two other Russian banks are to be expelled so as "to solidify the complete isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system," after previous EU sanctions hit the Russian central bank and other financial institutions.

In addition, Russian military officials involved in atrocities in Ukraine's Bucha and Mariupol are to also be targeted for sanctions, von der Leyen said.

"This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable," von der Leyen said.

The bloc is to target three more Russian state-owned broadcasters in the new sanctions, von der Leyen said. Accountancy services and public relations companies are to also be barred from doing business in Russia.

Propaganda

"We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces, that amplify Putin's lies and propaganda aggressively," von der Leyen told the European Parliament, referring to the Russian president.

"The Kremlin relies on accountants, consultants and spin-doctors from Europe. And this will now stop," she said.

The top EU official also called for an "ambitious recovery package" for Ukraine and for further economic supports to help the country weather the economic impact of the Russian invasion.

Ambassadors for the 27 EU member states are now set to scrutinize the proposals in Brussels. With no major objections, the sanctions could be adopted in the coming days.

EU's von der Leyen calls for import ban on Russian oil by year-end
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