At a conference targeted at aiding Ukraine with a long-delayed package of extra monetary assistance, European Union leaders decided Monday to impose a ban on most Russian oil imports into the EU by the end of the year as part of new penalties on Moscow.
During a demonstration in front of EU institutions on Monday, protesters demanded a ban on Russian oil ahead of an unprecedented summit of EU leaders to discuss Ukraine, energy, and food security at the Europa building in Brussels.
The ban applies to Russian oil imported by sea, with a temporary exception for pipeline imports, a measure that was critical in bringing landlocked Hungary on board a judgment that required agreement.
According to EU Council President Charles Michel, the accord covers more than two-thirds of Russia’s oil imports. The EU’s executive branch chief, Ursula Von der Leyen, said the sanctions will “essentially reduce around 90% of Russian oil shipments to the EU by the end of the year.”
According to Michel, leaders also decided to grant Ukraine a 9 billion euro ($9.7 billion) tranche of funding to help the war-torn country’s economy. It was unknown if the funds would be distributed in the form of grants and loans.
People will face asset freezes and travel bans as part of the additional penalties, while Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, will be barred from SWIFT, the main global financial messaging system from which the EU earlier barred several smaller Russian banks. The distribution of three major Russian state-owned broadcasters’ programs in the EU will be prohibited.
“We want to put a halt to Russia’s war machine,” Michel added, hailing a “great accomplishment.”
“It’s more vital than ever to demonstrate that we can be powerful, that we can be solid, that we can be tough,” he continued.
Michel stated that the additional penalties, which require the approval of all 27 member countries, will be approved officially by Wednesday.
The EU has previously implemented five rounds of sanctions on Russia as a result of the conflict. More than 1,000 persons have been singled out, involving Russian President Vladimir Putin and top government officials, as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, coal production, and others.
However, issues over oil supply delayed the implementation of the sixth package of restrictions, which was disclosed on May 4.
The bloc was obliged to scale back its hopes to break Hungary’s resistance as a result of the standoff. The primary goal of the program, as suggested by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, was to phase out crude oil importation within six months and refine products by the course of the year. Michel and von der Leyen both stated that leaders will return to the matter soon, hoping to ensure that Russia’s pipeline oil supplies to the EU are blocked at a later date.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, has stated that he will accept the new sanctions only if his country’s oil supply security is ensured. Hungary imports more than 60% of its oil from Russia, relying on petroleum delivered via the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.
Von der Leyen had downplayed the possibilities of a summit breakthrough. However, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed them to halt “internal discussions that only encourage Russia to impose more and more burden on the rest of Europe,” the leaders reached an agreement. The EU imports around 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and disagreements over the subject have highlighted the limits of the EU’s goals.
In a 10-minute video message, Zelenskyy urged leaders to put an end to “internal debates that only encourage Russia to increase its pressure on the entire European Union.”
He stated that the measures package must “be agreed upon, and it must be comprehensive, including (on) oil,” in order for Moscow to “pay the price” for its actions against Ukraine and the rest of Europe. Only then will Russia be obliged to “start pursuing peace,” according to Zelenskyy. He had previously proposed that the EU attack Russia’s wealthy energy sector, depriving Moscow of billions of dollars in daily supply payments.
Nevertheless, Hungary was among a group of EU members concerned about the economic impact of the oil embargo, which included Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. Hungary is largely reliant on Russian energy and cannot afford to shut down the pipelines. Hungary imports 85 percent of its natural gas from Russia, in addition to its requirement for Russian oil.
When Orban arrived in Brussels for the conference, he was certain that no deal was in the works, stating that Hungary’s energy supply had to be guaranteed.
According to Von der Leyen and Michel, Germany and Poland’s resolve to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year and forego oil from the northern half of the Druzhba pipeline will help to cut Russian oil imports by 90%.
The leaders will discuss food security on Tuesday, with the leadership urging their countries to expedite work on “solidarity lanes” to help Ukraine export grain as well as other goods.