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EU split on Russia oil sanctions, mulls other steps

Published 03/20/2022, 09:09 PM
Updated 03/21/2022, 08:01 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

By Ingrid Melander and Sabine Siebold

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union's foreign ministers disagreed on Monday on whether and how to slap sanctions on Russia's lucrative energy sector over its invasion of Ukraine, with Germany saying the bloc was too dependent on Russian oil to decide an embargo.

The EU and allies have already imposed hefty measures against Russia, including freezing its central bank's assets.

Russia's siege and bombardment of Mariupol port, which EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called "a massive war crime", is increasing pressure for action.

But targeting Russian energy exports, as the United States and Britain have done, is a divisive choice for the 27-nation EU, which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

Some of those who want the EU to go further showed impatience at the pace of talks after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

"Why should Europe give Putin more time to earn more money from oil and gas? More time to use European ports? More time to use unsanctioned Russian banks in Europe? Time to pull the plug," Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR).

But Borrell told a news conference that while that the bloc would "continue isolating Russia", concrete decisions would be made later.

One EU diplomat said some hoped that by June the EU would have found enough alternative sources of energy to seriously consider an oil embargo. No date has been agreed though, and other EU states may have different targets in mind.

Germany and the Netherlands said the EU was dependent on Russian oil and gas and could not cut itself off right now.

"The question of an oil embargo is not a question of whether we want or don't want (it), but a question of how much we depend on oil," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters.

"Germany is importing a lot (of Russian oil), but there are also other member states who can't stop the oil imports from one day to the other," she said, adding that the bloc should instead work on reducing its reliance on Moscow for its energy needs.


Other potential sanctions being discussed, diplomats have said, include closing loopholes on trust funds used by oligarchs, adding new names to the sanctions list, stopping Russian boats from docking in EU ports, and cutting more banks' access to the SWIFT global messaging system.

All this will be discussed again on Thursday, when U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Brussels for talks with transatlantic alliance NATO's 30 members, the EU, and Group of Seven (G7) members including Japan, designed to harden the West's response to Moscow.

Diplomats have said a Russian chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, or heavy bombardment of the capital, Kyiv, could be a trigger for the EU to go ahead with an energy embargo.

But they cautioned that energy was one of the most complex sectors to sanction because each EU country has its own red lines.

They said that while the Baltics want an oil embargo, Germany and Italy, which depend on Russian gas, are pushing back because of already high energy prices. Sanctions on coal are a red line for some, including Germany, Poland and Denmark, while for others, such as the Netherlands, oil is untouchable.

Moscow itself has warned that such sanctions could prompt it to close a gas pipeline to Europe - another potential deterrent.


Meanwhile, EU foreign and defence ministers adopted a security strategy meant to boost the bloc's military clout, establishing a rapid reaction force with up to 5,000 troops to be swiftly deployed in a crisis.

"The war that is ongoing is a tectonic shift," Borrell said. "We have to be able to react rapidly."

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The Kremlin has so far not been moved to change course in Ukraine by EU sanctions, including on 685 Russians and Belarusians, and on Russian finance and trade.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a "special operation" to demilitarize Ukraine and purge it of dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West say these are baseless pretexts for aggression.

Latest comments

Russia is an evil empire. On principle we should do no buisnesswith them even if we pay higher energy cost for a while.
The EU must first ask President Biden to deliver on his commitment to tame energy prices before he touches on any other topic.
Trump said he would of sent the jets to Ukraine and stood up to Putin. He is right instead of watching a slaughter.
Trump is a big talker, talk is cheap and we all know he is a simp for putin just like you simp for loser trump
Nobody in their right mind believes anything Trump says. Trump said Mexico would pay for his border wall. Trump said he would release his tax returns, Trump said he would repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump said he would rebuild America's infrastructure. Trump said the Corona virus would be gone my spring of 2020. Trump said he wouldn't have time to play golf if elected. Trump said he would eliminate the Federal deficit. Trump said hydroxychloroquine protects against coronavirus. And on and on and on. Trump is a conman.
Big time con man Trump is.
Russia has been expelled from the Council of Europe — a body established after World War II to safeguard peace, the rule of law, and human rights.
Will Joe Biden offer to send the EU windmills & solar panels?
"Germany is warning against acting too quickly".  We are taking to long already, how much longer can Ukraine resist? If EU needs to link the prices to CPI monthly to prevent dumping and slavery of smaller companies to the big ones, do it. Let inflation soar and people decide if they rather have a cold water shower for the good of Ukraine.
It's time for a patriot missle up puketins backside.
Forget sanctions Ukraine can nit re enforce its troops. They need troops not sanctions. Russia and puketin need to be pushed out by force.
why not just go ahead and nuke Moscow?
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