EU fights Russia’s oil ban as leaders gather

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders will gather on Monday in a show of new solidarity with Ukraine, but disagreements over whether to target Russian oil in a slew of new sanctions are exposing how the bloc is helping the war-torn country. Limits on how far countries can go. nation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who will address 27 heads of state and government by videoconference tonight, has repeatedly asked the EU to target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and deprive Moscow of billions of dollars in daily supply payments.

But Hungary is leading a group of countries — along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria — that are dependent on Russian oil and cannot afford to take such steps. More than 60% of Hungary’s oil and 85% of its natural gas come from Russia. Prime Minister Victor Orban insists the oil embargo should not be discussed at the summit.

The EU has imposed five rounds of sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. It targeted more than 1,000 people, including President Vladimir Putin and senior government officials, as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal industry and more.

The sixth package was announced on May 4, but the hold on oil was an embarrassment for the EU. Ahead of the summit, officials suggested that a solution could be found by targeting oil transported by ships and putting out fires for Hungary’s so valuable pipeline oil.

“If we were targeting oil by sea, we would hit at least two-thirds of our exports, maybe more,” a senior EU official said. He declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the negotiations. Hungary and Slovakia depend on Russian oil via the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

The problem with hitting seaborne oil is that the countries most reliant on this form, such as Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, will suffer from a surge in oil prices that will distort competition as Hungary will still buy cheaper Russian oil. Experts failed to reach agreement on such a move over the weekend, but continued their talks ahead of the summit.

The two-day meeting in Brussels will also focus on the EU’s continued financial support for Ukraine – likely to approve 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion) in aid – as well as military aid and war crimes investigations.

Food security will be on the table on Tuesday, and leaders will encourage their governments to speed up work on the “solidarity channel” to help Ukraine export grain and other agricultural products.

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