Ukraine: Russia has 'pounded it to rubble' says Barrons
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Governments will consider whether to impose an oil embargo over its invasion of Ukraine as a series of summits with US President Joe Biden seek to harden the West’s response. Seeking to force President Vladimir Putin into a military withdrawal, the EU has already imposed a panoply of punishing sanctions including freezing of the assets of the Russian central bank. Now the Kremlin’s energy resources are facing scrutiny, as is the dependence of the West on Putin’s fuel.
“We are working on a fifth round of sanctions and many new names are being proposed,” a senior EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity ahed of the secret talks.
EU governments will take up the discussion among foreign ministers this morning, before President Biden arrives in Brussels on Thursday, March 24, for summits with NATO’s 30 allies, as well with the G7.
The Kremlin has so far not been moved to change course in Ukraine by four rounds of EU sanctions imposed over the past three weeks.
That leaves the bloc with the tough economic choice of whether to target Russian oil.
The US and Britain have already taken action on energy, but the 27-nation EU has failed to so given its dependence on Russian gas.
Diplomats told Reuters that Baltic countries including Lithuania and led by Poland are pushing for an embargo as the next logical step.
But Germany is understood to be warning against acting too quickly because of already high energy prices in Europe. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Putin has called Russia’s actions a “special operation” meant to “de-Nazify” Ukraine in a purge it of what he calls dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an aggressive war of choice.
Moscow has warned that EU sanctions on Russian oil could prompt it to close a major gas pipeline to Europe.
The EU relies on Russia for 40 percent of its gas, with Germany among the most dependent of the EU’s large economies. Germany is also the largest EU buyer of Russian crude.
Bulgaria, which is almost completely dependent upon supplies from Russia’s Gazprom, has said it might seek an opt-out.
Bulgaria’s sole oil refinery is owned by Russia’s LUKOIL and provides over 60 percent of the fuel used in the Balkan country.
But all EU sanctions decisions require consensus. France, which heads the EU’s six-month presidency, will likely prove crucial.
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President Emmanuel Macron has said that if the situation worsens in Ukraine – where thousands have been killed, over 5 million people have been displaced and some cities devastated by shelling – there should be no “taboos” in terms of sanctions.
“These sanctions are meant to force President Putin into a new calculation,” a French presidency official said.
“Among our partners and among the countries trading with Russia, there are some who are more sensitive on the issue of oil and gas. Nevertheless, the President said, there is no taboo.”
Diplomats said a Russian chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, or a heavy bombardment of the capital Kyiv, could be a trigger for an energy embargo.
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