EU Targets Russian Oil, Banks As Attacks Intensify In Ukraine
The European Union proposed its toughest sanctions yet against Russia on Wednesday, including a phased oil embargo, as Kyiv said Moscow was intensifying an offensive in eastern Ukraine and close Russian ally Belarus announced large-scale army drills, Natalia Zinets and Francesco Guarascio reported for Reuters.
Photo Insert: The State Office in Washington D.C., United States (placed in the photo)
Piling pressure on Russia's already battered $1.8 trillion economy, the European Commission proposed phasing out imports of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of this year, sending the price of Brent up 4% to more than $109 a barrel.
"(President Vladimir) Putin must pay a price, a high price, for his brutal aggression," Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told applauding EU lawmakers in Strasbourg.
The plan, if agreed upon by EU governments, would be a watershed for the world's largest trading bloc, which remains dependent on Russian energy and must find alternative supplies. In a related development, Equinor Chief Executive Anders Opedal said on Wednesday, May 4, that Europe needs more gas from Norway.
"We see that there is an increased need for our gas," Opedal told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, Gwladys Fouche also reported for Reuters.
With the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia all seeking more time to adapt, there was no immediate deal, an official familiar with the talks said. EU envoys were expected to move closer to an agreement when they meet again on Thursday.
Brussels has also proposed freezing the assets of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, adding him to a draft blacklist of hundreds of individuals accused of supporting the war, a diplomat said on Wednesday.
The EU has yet to target Russian natural gas, used to heat homes and generate electricity across the bloc and harder to replace than Russian crude.