Low expectations for strong action on Russian oil at EU summit

EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Monday for a two-day summit that will lower expectations for a tough new sanctions policy to cut off supplies of Russian oil exports as punishment for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the U.S. and Western allies quickly joined forces to launch a wave of punitive economic sanctions as the war began in February, the heavy reliance of some EU countries on Russian oil imports has made collective action by the industry more difficult.

Hungary has been the most vocal EU country, warning that an immediate and complete ban on Russian oil would destroy its economy. Slovakia and the Czech Republic also rely heavily on oil from the Druzhba pipeline in southern Russia.

A complete shutdown would require a unanimous decision by the EU’s 27 member states.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, proposed a total embargo of Russian oil more than three weeks ago, but the move exposed some of the issues that have emerged in the EU’s solidarity with the Kremlin since the war began. major cracks.

“I don’t think we will reach a deal today,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaya Karas told Reuters.

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Some EU leaders are already talking about more modest steps than a full shutdown, which could include a ban on Russian tanker deliveries while allowing pipelines to continue flowing temporarily.

The second proposal includes a classic bureaucracy: creating a new independent committee to study the issue and report on possible future steps.

Before the war began, about half of Russia’s oil exports went to Western European markets, and President Vladimir Putin sought to increase pressure by requiring foreign customers to pay for oil in rubles or ruble-denominated instruments.

The watered-down measures have frustrated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is reportedly due to address an EU meeting via video link later on Monday.

Zelensky said last week that Putin would receive nearly $1 billion a day to fund his invasion by failing to impose a blanket embargo.

“Sanctions should be like this: they should be the largest, so that Russia and all other potential aggressors who want to wage a brutal war against their neighbors will know exactly what their actions will entail,” he said at the Davos Global Economic Summit. Consequences.” Switzerland last week.

The failure to reach a deal on Russian oil exports has hampered the formal implementation of other EU sanctions, including measures targeting Russian banking activities and asset freezes, as well as other financial penalties for Putin aides and other prominent Russian figures.

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