In a sixth package of sanctions punishing Moscow for its conflict in Ukraine, the European Union’s top official called on the 27-nation union to block oil imports from Russia.
Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other significant banks will be cut off from the SWIFT international financial payment system, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Von der Leyen urged EU members to phase out crude oil imports within six months and refined goods by the end of the year.
“We will ensure that we phase out Russian oil in a systematic and orderly manner, allowing us and our allies to secure alternative supply pathways while minimizing the impact on global markets,” von der Leyen said.
To take effect, the ideas must be unanimously adopted, and they are expected to spark heated discussion. It will be “difficult” to convince all 27 member nations — some of which are landlocked and heavily reliant on Russia for energy supply — to agree on oil sanctions, according to Von der Leyen.
If approved, the restriction on oil imports will be the second round of EU sanctions aimed at Russia’s wealthy energy industry in response to President Vladimir Putin’s conflict in Ukraine, which began on February 24. The bloc had earlier authorized an embargo on coal imports, in addition to penalties against different businesses and individuals, including Putin and members of his family.
The EU has begun talks about a possible natural gas embargo, but reaching agreement among member countries on how to target the fuel needed to generate power and heat homes may be more challenging.
Hungary and Slovakia have previously said that they will not participate in any oil restrictions, but von der Leyen did not say if they would be exempted from the penalties, which looks to be the case.
Von von Leyen also suggested that the EU pursue high-ranking military commanders and those “who perpetrated war crimes in Bucha,” a Kyiv suburb. Ukrainian sources claim that Russian forces on the retreat killed hundreds of civilians in Bucha.
“This sends another critical message to all Kremlin war criminals: We know who you are.” We’ll hold you responsible. “You’re not going to get away with it,” von der Leyen warned the legislators.
Banks, including Sberbank, are also on the EU executive arm’s radar. The goal, according to Von der Leyen, is to “de-SWIFT Sberbank.” SWIFT is the world’s most widely used financial messaging system.
Sberbank controls roughly 37% of the Russian financial system, according to Von der Leyen.
“We’ll also de-SWIFT two more significant Russian banks.” We struck banks that are structurally important to the Russian financial system and Putin’s capacity to inflict destruction as a result of this,” she explained.
Those accused of disseminating disinformation regarding the Ukraine conflict will be targeted, according to Von der Leyen.
“Three major Russian state-owned channels have been banned from our airwaves. They will no longer be permitted to disseminate their material in the EU, in any form or medium, including cable, satellite, the internet, and smartphone apps.”
She didn’t mention the stations by name, but described them as “mouthpieces” who “aggressively propagate Putin’s falsehoods and misinformation.” We should no longer give them a platform to spew their falsehoods.”