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The European Union wants to block oil imports from Russia

It is the most important measure foreseen in the sanctions package presented this morning by Ursula von der Leyen

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On Wednesday morning, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, presented the sixth package of sanctions that the European Union will apply against Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine before the European Parliament. The new measures mainly envisage a gradual freeze on oil imports from Russia, which is currently one of Europe’s main suppliers. The one presented on Wednesday is the second set of sanctions targeting the energy sector, after the one that banned imports of Russian coal approved in early April .

To enter into force, the new sanctions will have to be approved by the permanent representatives of the 27 member states of the European Union, who should meet in the morning: there should be no problems in approving, given that so far the Commission has never presented any proposals for sanctions. before being sure of having the support of all states. In his speech, Von der Leyen spoke in rather general terms of the main measures envisaged: this is because some details could change, especially as regards the blocking of oil imports.

Von der Leyen announced a “total” ban on imports of crude oil, ie unrefined oil, within six months of the entry into force of the new sanctions; imports of refined products such as petrol will also be blocked within nine months. In 2019, Russia had been the main oil supplier to the European Union: just over a quarter of all oil imported into the European Union came from Russia.

The problem that has slowed down the negotiations on the new sanctions, which were expected two weeks ago, is that some states are “totally dependent on Russian oil”, as Von der Leyen also recalled in his speech. Several of these countries have tried and will probably try to obtain exemptions to the last. Euractiv writes that Hungary and Slovakia would have obtained a longer transition period than that foreseen for all the others, while Bulgaria and the Czech Republic could ask for a similar exemption.

In his speech, Von der Leyen cited the need to ensure damage to Russia and a manageable backlash for the countries of the Union, many of which have been looking for alternative sources with which to replace Russian oil for weeks, amidst many difficulties. Germany, which until recently imported about a quarter of its oil from outside the European Union from Russia, had announced that a blockade of Russian oil had become “sustainable” .

Among the other measures announced by Von der Leyen there are also sanctions on the main Russian bank, Sberbank, which will be released from SWIFT, the main system that allows international payments between banks, and on three Russian television channels – of which Von der Leyen did not mention the name – the broadcast of which will be banned in the European Union.

Von der Leyen, on the other hand, did not mention any individual sanctions for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who is believed to be very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who according to some rumors gathered by Politico in recent days could end up on the list of individual sanctions that have so far hit dozens of Russian officials, businessmen and politicians believed to be close to the government. The complete list of measures will be made official after the meeting of the permanent representatives of the 27 countries of the Union.

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