The European Union is poised to ban Russian oil imports as part of a new wave of possible sanctions, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday, marking the bloc’s boldest proposals yet as it boosts efforts to hold Moscow accountable for invading Ukraine.
- The EU will phase out Russian crude oil imports over the next six months, von der Leyen told the European Parliament in a speech outlining proposals for a sixth wave of sanctions against Moscow.
- Von der Leyen, who heads the EU’s executive branch, said ending the bloc’s “dependency on Russian oil… will not be easy” and must be done in an “orderly fashion” to minimize global disruption while maximizing pressure on Russia.
- The package also contained proposals to disconnect three major Russian banks—including the country’s largest, Sberbank—from the SWIFT international financial system and bar three state-owned Russian broadcasters from the region, which von der Leyen said amplify “Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively”.
- The proposals also include targeted measures against high-ranking military officers who have committed war crimes in Ukraine, von der Leyen said.
- “We know who you are… and you will be held accountable,” she said.
What To Watch For
More ambitious relief for Ukraine and a path to join the EU. “We want Ukraine to win this war,” but also succeed afterwards, von der Leyen said on Wednesday. In addition to short-term support to help cope with the fallout of the war, including a suspension on import duties and direct financial support, von der Leyen proposed the bloc start working on an “ambitious recovery package” to bring “massive investment,” address “existing weaknesses” in the Ukrainian economy and “lay the foundations for sustainable long-term growth.” Such investment could help fight corruption, align Ukraine’s legal system with the EU’s and upgrade its productive capacity. “Eventually, it will pave the way for Ukraine's future inside the European Union,” von der Leyen said.
“With all these steps, we are depriving the Russian economy from its ability to diversify and modernize,” von der Leyen said. “Putin wanted to wipe Ukraine from the map. He will clearly not succeed. On the contrary: Ukraine has risen up in unity. And it is his own country, Russia, he is sinking.”
What We Don't Know
What the final sanctions will look like. The Commission’s proposals will now be debated by the EU’s 27 member states, many of whom will have a tough time weaning themselves from Russian oil. While the exports are a major source of revenue for Moscow, it is the block’s main supplier. It’s possible some EU members will be granted a concession under the new plans, according to multiple news reports, notably Slovakia and Hungary. The two countries are among the most reliant on Russian oil in Europe, accounting for nearly all of Slovakia’s oil imports last year and more than half of Hungary’s. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic may also seek to opt-out, according to Euractiv.