Europe agrees to remove Russian language in ‘orderly way’

Posted on

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said the European Union would impose a gradual ban on Russian oil in retaliation for the war in Ukraine.

Proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of intense debate.

Von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, acknowledged that getting 27 member states — some of which are landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies — to agree to oil sanctions ‘is not going to be easy.’

The bloc aims to remove crude oil from Russia within six months, and refined products by the end of the year.

“We will make sure that we remove Russian oil regularly,” von der Leyen said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as he presented the sixth package of sanctions against Moscow for denying funding for the war effort against Ukraine.

The European Union's top official, Ursula von der Leyen, on Wednesday asked the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia in a sixth package of sanctions targeting Moscow.

The European Union’s top official, Ursula von der Leyen, on Wednesday asked the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia in a sixth package of sanctions targeting Moscow.

Von der Leyen also said the EU would ask the 27 member states of the bloc to deny Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, access to SWIFT, the global banking communications system.

Sberbank holds about 37 percent of Russia’s banking sector, said Von der Leyen.

And we will also delete the SWIFT of the other two big banks in Russia. With that, we hit the banks that are systemically critical of the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to destroy,” he said.

He said the EU should maximize pressure on Russia but ensure that its member states’ economies remain strong in order to be effective in supporting Ukraine.

If approved, the ban on oil imports would be the second package of EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine started by President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

The bloc aims to remove crude oil from Russia within six months, and refined products by the end of the year

The bloc aims to remove crude oil from Russia within six months, and refined products by the end of the year

In addition to sanctions against various entities and individuals – including Putin himself and members of his family – the bloc has previously agreed to an embargo on coal imports.

The EU has started discussions about a possible natural gas embargo, but consensus among member states on targeting the fuels used to generate electricity and heating homes is more difficult to secure.

Von der Leyen also said that the EU should target top military officers and others “who committed war crimes in Bucha,” a suburb of the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials allege that retreating Russian troops carried out mass killings of civilians in Bucha.

‘This sends another important signal to all Kremlin warlords: We know who you are. We will hold you accountable. You’re not going to get away with this,’ von der Leyen told lawmakers.

Von der Leyen added that those suspected of spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine would be targeted.

“We banned three major Russian state-owned broadcasters from our broadcasts. They will no longer be allowed to distribute their content in the EU, in any form or form be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone applications.’

He did not name the announcer directly, but branded the television channel ‘as a mouthpiece that aggressively amplifies Putin’s lies and propaganda. We should not give them another stage to spread this lie.’

Top EU officials say the bloc must maximize pressure on Russia but ensure its member countries' economies remain strong in order to be effective in supporting Ukraine.

Top EU officials say the bloc must maximize pressure on Russia but ensure its member countries’ economies remain strong in order to be effective in supporting Ukraine.

Although von der Leyen did not name names, Hungary and Slovakia both depend heavily on Russian oil and gas imports.

Hungary and Slovakia have said they will not take part in any oil sanctions, but von der Leyen did not specify whether they would receive an exemption from sanctions, although this seems likely.

If Slovakia and Hungary are given a gap and Germany pushes forward, the bloc might be able to present a unified economic front in banning Russian exports.

To keep the 27-nation bloc united, the Commission may offer Slovakia and Hungary ‘exemptions or a lengthy transition period’, one of the officials said.

Oil exports are Moscow’s main source of revenue, giving EU countries the ability to heap economic pressure on Russia by denying its sales from the continent.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends the opening session of Hungary's new parliament in Budapest.  European Commission can save Hungary and Slovakia from embargo on Russian oil purchases

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends the opening session of Hungary’s new parliament in Budapest. European Commission can save Hungary and Slovakia from embargo on Russian oil purchases

Russian pipeline supplying oil and gas to Europe (pictured) will be shut down under the new sanctions package, with the possible exception of imports going to Hungary and Slovakia

Russian pipeline supplying oil and gas to Europe (pictured) will be shut down under the new sanctions package, with the possible exception of imports going to Hungary and Slovakia

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday it would be able to overcome the EU embargo on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, in a signal that Germany was putting its weight behind the ban.

“We have managed to reach a situation where Germany can afford to bear the oil embargo,” Habeck, a Greens ecologist, told a news conference. ‘This means it won’t be without consequences.’

Finance Minister Christian Lindner went even further, telling the German broadcaster that the German economy would even be able to accept an immediate ban.

‘With coal and oil, it is now possible to forgo Russian imports,’ the Free Democrats (FDP) Lindner told WELT. ‘It cannot be ruled out that fuel prices could rise.’

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is under pressure to reduce Germany’s dependence on Russia’s fossil fuels and he has been accused of lacking leadership after his initial resistance to supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons.

Germany last month cut Russia’s share of oil to 25% of total imports from 35% before the invasion.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday it would be able to overcome the EU embargo on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, in a signal that the country is putting its weight behind the ban.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday it would be able to overcome the EU embargo on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, in a signal that the country is putting its weight behind the ban.

Habeck said the main challenge for Germany was finding alternative oil shipments to the refinery at Schwedt operated by Russian state company Rosneft which supplies eastern Germany as well as the Berlin metropolitan area.

Those areas could face supply shortages in the event of an EU embargo if Germany cannot secure alternative oil imports by the end of the year, Habeck said.

‘We still don’t have a solution for the refinery at Schwedt,’ says Habeck. ‘We cannot guarantee that the supply will be continuous.

There will definitely be price increases and there will be some blackouts. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to slip into an oil crisis.’

An adviser to Scholz told the Financial Times in remarks published on Sunday that Germany supports the EU’s planned embargo on Russian oil but wants months more to secure an alternative.

Joerg Kukies told the paper that the aim was to ensure Schwedt was supplied with non-Russian oil carried by tankers to Rostock in the Baltic Sea.

Moscow commanders made no mention of storming the compound, saying instead they were destroying new defenses erected during the weekend truce.

Moscow commanders made no mention of storming the compound, saying instead they were destroying new defenses erected during the weekend truce.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, Russia is trying to storm the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol after a massive bombing overnight that killed two civilians, Ukrainian defenders say.

Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov battalion hiding inside the factory, said the Russians spent the whole night bombing and were now trying to storm the compound using armored vehicles, tanks, ships and ‘large numbers of infantry’.

Palamar said two women died in the bombing with ten others injured, and called for an immediate ceasefire so that hundreds of civilians still trapped inside the factory could be evacuated.

Moscow acknowledged the Azovstal bombing but said its troops were taking up new defensive positions set up during the ceasefire at the weekend.

The commander made no mention of the storming of the factory, after Putin vowed last month that the operation had been called off to save the lives of his troops.

: A woman from Mariupol cries after arriving at the evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia

: A woman from Mariupol cries after arriving at the evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia

The Azovstal steelworks was the last stand of the Ukrainian resistance in the city controlled by Moscow’s forces and key to their campaign in eastern Ukraine.

The United Nations confirmed today that it had helped evacuate 101 people – mostly women and children – from the factory last week during a five-day operation.

It said ‘most’ of those people arrived in the town of Zaporizhzhia, 125 miles from Mariupol via Russian-controlled territory, today – although some have decided to remain in the occupied areas.

The BBC reported that 156 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia as part of the convoy, which grew in size as people from outside the steel mill joined the journey.

Pictures and videos of the arrival showed some people crying as others – including a disabled man – were helped off the bus for medical treatment.

Mariupol has come to symbolize the human misery wrought by war.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.