EU leaders agree to ban 90% of Russian oil by year’s end – NBC 6 South Florida

European Union leaders agreed on Monday to embargo most Russian oil imports into the bloc by the end of the year as part of new sanctions against Moscow drawn up at a summit aimed at helping Ukraine with a long-delayed new financial support package.

The embargo covers Russian oil delivered by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline, a move crucial to bring landlocked Hungary on board a decision that required consensus.

EU Council President Charles Michel said the deal covers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia. Ursula Von der Leyen, the EU’s chief executive, said the punitive measure “will effectively reduce around 90% of Russia’s oil imports to the EU by the end of the year”.

Michel said the leaders also agreed to provide Ukraine with a €9 billion ($9.7 billion) aid tranche to support the war-torn country’s economy. It was unclear whether the money would come in the form of grants or loans.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, reacted to the EU decision on Twitter saying: “As she rightly said yesterday, Russia will find other importers.”

The new sanctions package will also include an asset freeze and a travel ban for individuals, while Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, will be barred from SWIFT, the world’s main financial transfer system, several of which the EU has previously banned. small Russian banks. Three major Russian public broadcasters will be prevented from distributing their content in the EU.

“We want to stop the Russian war machine,” Michel said, hailing what he called a “remarkable achievement.”

“More than ever, it is important to show that we are capable of being strong, that we are capable of being firm, that we are capable of being tough,” he added.

Michel said the new sanctions, which required the support of all 27 member countries, will be legally approved by Wednesday.

The EU had already imposed five rounds of sanctions on Russia for its war. It has targeted more than 1,000 people individually, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior government officials as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal industry and more.

But the sixth package of measures announced on May 4 had been delayed by concerns over oil supplies.

The standoff embarrassed the bloc, which was forced to scale back its ambitions to break Hungarian resistance. When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed the package, the original aim was to phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

Michel and von der Leyen said the leaders would return to the issue soon, seeking to ensure that pipeline oil exports from Russia to the EU are banned at a later date.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had made it clear that he could only support the new sanctions if the security of his country’s oil supply was guaranteed. Hungary gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and depends on crude that passes through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

Von der Leyen had played down the chances of a breakthrough at the top. But the leaders reached a compromise after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged them to put an end to ‘internal arguments which only incite Russia to exert more and more pressure on the whole of Europe’ .

The EU gets around 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and divisions over the issue have exposed the limits of the ambitions of the 27-nation trading bloc.

In his 10-minute video speech, Zelenskyy told leaders to end “internal arguments that only incite Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”

He said the sanctions package must “be agreed upon, it must be effective, including (on) oil”, so that Moscow “feels the price of what it is doing against Ukraine” and the rest of the world. ‘Europe. Only then, Zelenskyy said. , will Russia be forced to “start seeking peace”.

It was not the first time he demanded that the EU target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and deprive Moscow of billions of dollars every day in supply payments.

But Hungary led a group of EU countries worried about the impact of the oil ban on their economy, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Hungary depends heavily on Russia for energy and cannot afford to turn off the pumps. In addition to its Russian oil needs, Hungary gets 85% of its natural gas from Russia.

Orban had been adamant arriving at the Brussels summit that a deal was not in sight, stressing that Hungary needed to secure its energy supply.

Von der Leyen and Michel said Germany’s and Poland’s commitment to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year and give up oil from the northern part of the Druzhba pipeline will help reduce Russian oil imports by 90%.

The issue of food security will be on the table on Tuesday, with leaders ready to encourage their governments to speed up work on “solidarity pathways” to help Ukraine export grain and other products.

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Karel Janicek contributed to this story from Prague.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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