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Alamy Stock Photo File photo of the European Commission building in Brussels.

EU agrees ban on more than two-thirds of Russian oil imports

The EU has already slapped five rounds of sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | May 30th 2022, 11:06 PM

THE EU HAS announced that it has reached an agreement to ban two-thirds of Russian oil imports to the European Union as part of its sixth round of sanctions.

In a tweet this evening, President of the European Council Charles Michel said that an agreement had been reached by EU leaders, after previous deals had been blocked by Hungary.

“This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war,” said Michel.

Alongside the sanctions on oil, the largest bank in Russia, Sberbank, will be removed from the Swift banking system alongside the banning of three more Russian state broadcasters

Michel added that individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine will also be sanctioned.

It comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the EU to adopt more sanctions against Russia.

“All quarrels in Europe must end, internal disputes that only encourage Russia to put more and more pressure on you,” Zelenskyy told an EU summit in Brussels via video-link.

“It is time for you to be not separate, not fragments, but one whole,” he said, calling for a new set of sanctions against Russia, including a ban on Russian oil.

EU divisions have slowed the adoption of another sanctions package against Russia, with Hungary previously saying it would not back an oil embargo against Moscow.

“It is clear that there should be progress in sanctions against Russia,” Zelenskyy said.

“Unfortunately, for a reason that escapes me, we are still not there,” he added, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remains the main obstacle to agreeing an embargo on Russian oil.

Hungary gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and 85% of its natural gas. Orban has insisted that an oil embargo should not be discussed at the summit.

Call for ‘greater unity’

Zelenskyy said “greater unity” in the bloc was the only effective way to counter Russia, stressing Kyiv has shown how important unity can be while battling the Russian invasion.

“If someone torpedoes a ship, it’s impossible for one or more cabins to have hope to stay afloat when others drown,” Zelenskyy said.

He also said he hoped that those EU countries that oppose fast-tracking Kyiv’s EU candidacy status will “change their minds.”

“We have met all the necessary criteria for this status,” the Ukrainian leader said.

Ukraine has been angered by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s comments that Kyiv’s bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite Russia’s invasion.

Pre-summit comments

Speaking ahead of the summit, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that there had been significant progress made on the sixth round of sanctions.

“Significant progress has been made by member states in respect of finalising a text in terms of the sixth sanctions which includes a ban on the importation of Russian oil,” said Martin.

He added that it would be a significant move by the EU when added to other sanctions in the proposed package, which proposes removing Sberbank from the SWIFT banking system.

“Russia is using the income from oil to finance its war and Ireland is supportive of the work that has been done in relation to the sixth round of sanctions.”

Martin said that up to €9 billion is set to be set aside for Ukraine to help the country with budget measures, while adding that work is currently underway on plans to rebuild Ukraine after the war has ended.

The EU has already slapped five rounds of sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

It has targeted more than 1,000 people, including President Vladimir Putin and top government officials, as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal sector and more.

A sixth package was announced on 4 May, but the hold-up over oil is embarrassing the bloc.

Hungary and Slovakia depend on Russian oil they receive through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.

The problem with hitting sea-transported oil is that countries such as Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, which are most reliant on that form, would suffer a surge in oil prices, distorting competition because Hungary would still be purchasing cheaper Russian oil.

Experts failed to reach agreement on such a move over the weekend but continued their talks ahead of the summit.

The two-day meeting in Brussels will also focus on continued EU financial support to Ukraine – probably the endorsement of a nine billion-euro tranche of assistance – and on military help and war crimes investigations.

The issue of food security will be on the table tomorrow, with the leaders set to encourage their governments to speed up work on “solidarity lanes” to help Ukraine export grain and other produce.

Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally and AFP.

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