EU oil embargo ‘within days’, Ukraine isolation pushes Russia, China closer

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© Reuters. Local women walk along a street while Ukrainian soldiers patrol an area as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues in the town of Kurakhove in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, May 20, 2022. Photo taken on May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva

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By Oleksandr Kozhukhar and Hans-Edzard Busemann

LVIV, UKRAINE/Berlin (Reuters) – The European Union may agree to an embargo on Russian oil imports “within a few days”, according to its largest member Germany, as Moscow says it has been isolated by the West. Economic ties with China are growing because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told global business leaders in Davos on Monday that the world must tighten sanctions on Russia to prevent other countries from using “brute force” to achieve their goals.

Many of the EU’s 27 member states are heavily dependent on Russia for energy, prompting criticism from Kyiv that the bloc did not act quickly to stop supplies.

Hungary on Monday stood by its demands on energy investment before agreeing to such an embargo, clashing with EU countries pushing for swift ratification. The EU has provided up to 2 billion euros ($2.14 billion) in aid to Middle Eastern countries that lack non-Russian supplies.

“We will have a breakthrough in a few days,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told broadcaster ZDF.

He said the European Commission and the United States were simultaneously working on a proposal to cap global oil prices.

“This is obviously an unusual measure, but these are unusual times,” he said.

Russia’s three-month-long invasion was the largest attack on a European country since 1945, sending more than 6.5 million people abroad, turning entire cities into rubble and prompting the West to impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia.

U.S. coffee chain Starbucks (NASDAQ: ) further symbolized its isolation, becoming the latest Western brand to announce its exit from the country on Monday.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin would focus on developing relations with China as economic ties with the United States and Europe were severed.

“If they (the West) want to offer something in terms of restoring relations, then we will seriously consider whether we need it,” he said in a speech, according to a transcript on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

“Now that the West has taken the ‘dictator’s stance’, our economic ties with China will grow even faster.”

The comments came during a visit to Asia by U.S. President Joe Biden, where he expressed his willingness to use force to defend Taiwan from Chinese aggression — a comment that appeared to expand the boundaries of the ambiguous U.S. policy toward the self-governing island.

Donbas Fight

On the front, Russia is trying to encircle Ukrainian troops and completely occupy the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces that make up the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow supports separatist forces.

The east has been its focus since the end of March when Russian troops were driven out of areas around and north of the capital, Kyiv.

Zelensky revealed on Monday that Ukraine had suffered its worst military loss in a war attack, saying last week Russian troops attacked a barracks at a training base in the north, killing 87 people.

“Every time we tell our partners that we need modern anti-ballistic weapons, modern military aircraft, we are not making empty demands,” he said in remarks Monday night.

“These demands are for the lives of many who would not have been killed if we had received all the weapons we have been demanding.”

Denmark has pledged to deliver Harpoon anti-ship missiles and launchers to Ukraine, the U.S. announced on Monday, the first sign that Kyiv will receive U.S.-made weapons to significantly expand its reach since Russia invaded it in February .

Harpoons made by Boeing (NYSE: ) could be used to push the Russian navy away from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, reviving exports of food and other agricultural products.

Russia said it was conducting a “special operation” in Ukraine to demilitarize its neighbors and root out dangerous nationalists. The West and Kyiv called it a false pretext for the invasion.

Russian troops opened fire on 38 communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Monday, killing seven people and wounding six others, the military command of the Ukrainian Joint Forces Task Force said in its nightly update.

Reuters could not immediately verify the information.

Luhansk Oblast Governor Sergei Gede said on Telegram that Russia is bombing the Donbas city of Sievierodonetsk from the air.

“The enemy is looking for people to hide,” he wrote.

He added that other parts of the region were also under constant attack.

Ukraine is investigating more than 13,000 alleged Russian war crimes, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s website.

Russia denies targeting civilians or participating in war crimes.

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