by Francesco Guarascio and John Chalmers
STRASBOURG, May 4 (Reuters) – The European Commission proposed on Wednesday a new set of sanctions against Russia, on an unprecedented scale, for the offensive launched by Moscow in Ukraine, but several countries of the bloc worried about the impact of an embargo on Russian oil imports cast doubt on the conclusion of an agreement of the Twenty-Seven.
Announced by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the proposed new measures include the exclusion of new Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank network and the banning of Russian media broadcasting in Europe, as well as an embargo, in six months, on Russian oil.
The issue of Russian oil is delicate, as the European Union imports some 3.5 million barrels of crude and other petroleum products from Russia daily, while being dependent on Russian gas supplies.
A handful of Eastern European countries fear they won’t have enough time to adjust to a suspension of Russian oil deliveries, even though diplomats have indicated that Hungary and Slovakia will be given a deadline extended until the end of 2023.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said via Facebook that Budapest can only agree to European sanctions if Russian oil imports are excluded. nL5N2WW5PM
Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has close ties to Moscow, imported more than half of its oil and petroleum products from Russia last year, according to data from the International Energy Agency ( OUCH).
For their part, Slovakia asked for a transition period of three years and the Czech Republic for a delay of two to three years.
Reluctance within the EU to take measures affecting the economies of the bloc as well as Russia has dissipated in recent weeks, with the multiplication of images of massacres in Ukrainian cities and the fear of a reinforced Russian offensive in Eastern Ukraine.
A symbol of the anger that prevails within the bloc at the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin – an offensive that Moscow describes as a “special military operation” – Ursula von der Leyen declared that Russia must be punished.
“Putin must pay the price, and the high price, for his brutal aggression” against Ukraine, she said before the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg.
“Today, we are going to propose banning all Russian oil from Europe,” she added, to applause, during a speech presenting the measures proposed by the Commission.
This new set of sanctions, which must be approved unanimously by the Twenty-Seven to come into force, provides in particular for the gradual cessation of Russian oil imports in six months. It is a measure similar to those taken by the United States and Britain, with the aim of cutting off one of Russia’s main sources of income.
Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic raised concerns over a Russian oil embargo at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday, a source said, adding however that a deal could be reached by now the weekend.
UKRAINE RECONSTRUCTION ASSISTANCE PLAN
In addition to oil, the new package of sanctions proposed by the Commission also targets the Russian banking sector, with the exclusion from the SWIFT interbank network of Sberbank SBER.MM, Russia’s leading bank, and two other Russian “systemic” banking groups.
It would be Credit Bank of Moscow CBOM.MM and Russian Agricultural Bank, two European sources told Reuters.
“This will reinforce the complete isolation of the Russian financial system from the world system,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
No comment was obtained from Sberbank, which had previously said of EU sanctions that these would not have a material impact on its operations.
In addition, new high-ranking Russian military officials will be added to the “black list” of personalities targeted by individual sanctions, in the form of entry bans on European territory and asset freezes, indicated the President of the Commission.
Three Russian public television channels will be banned from broadcasting in Europe, she also said. According to diplomats, these are RTR-Planeta and R24.
Ursula von der Leyen proposed the launch of a vast aid program for the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war.
“Ultimately, this plan will pave the way for a future for Ukraine within the European Union,” she said.
The ambassadors of the Twenty-Seven to the European Union should meet by the end of the week to decide on this new set of sanctions.
* See as well :
EU targets Russian Orthodox Patriarch in sanctions proposals – diplomat nL5N2WW6B4
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^ EU targets Russian Orthodox Patriarch in sanctions proposals - diplomat nL5N2WW6B4
(with Jan Strupczewski, Kate Abnett, Benoit Van Overstraeten, Sabine Siebold and Gabriela Baczynska; French version Myriam Rivet and Jean Terzian, edited by Tangi Salaün and Jean-Michel Bélot)