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The EU yields to the Hungarian conditions for the veto on Russian oil

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European Union leaders made concessions to Hungary to agree an oil embargo on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, sealing a deal early on Tuesday that aims to cut 90% of Russian crude imports to the bloc. by the end of the year.

By promising that the EU embargo excludes the oil pipeline that landlocked Hungary relies on for Russian oil, the bloc aims to cut Moscow’s revenues that are used to finance the war that began three months ago in Ukraine.

“It’s a fair compromise … it was the best we could get,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters on her arrival for the second day of an EU summit where leaders will discuss ways to mitigate the rise in energy prices.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, recently re-elected and one of the bloc’s longest-serving leaders, repeated that a total embargo would have been an “atomic bomb” for the Hungarian economy.

“It would have been unbearable for us to run the Hungarian economy with the most expensive (non-Russian) oil… this would have meant an atomic bomb, but we managed to avoid it,” Orbán said in a video posted on Facebook.

The embargo – once it is legally imposed in the coming days – will affect sea shipments of Russian oil and cover most imports from Russia once Poland and Germany stop buying it at the end of 2022, which, According to diplomats and authorities from both countries, it is now government policy.

The remaining 10% will be temporarily exempted from the embargo so that Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have access through the Druzhba pipeline from Russia.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said the main goal was to maintain the unity of the EU, despite giving in to the demands of Hungary, a member state that is increasingly authoritarian, according to human rights groups, and combative with respect to the bloc.

“The important news is that the EU remains united in its purpose, the purpose is to stop Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine,” Karins said.

RUSSIAN GAS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Although details remain to be worked out, the oil embargo deal follows an earlier ban on Russian coal and allows the bloc to impose a sixth round of sanctions that includes the exclusion of Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, from the international SWIFT system.

Moscow, which claims its war in Ukraine is a “special military operation” to rid the country of dangerous nationalists, has responded to EU sanctions by cutting off power supplies to Bulgaria, Poland, Finland and the Netherlands.

A similar move on Russian natural gas supplies is likely to be the EU’s next diplomatic battleground in the coming weeks, after the oil embargo has been imposed.

As several leaders called on Tuesday for work to start on a seventh round of sanctions, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said: “Gas cannot be part of the next sanctions.”

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