EU agrees on partial ban of Russian oil imports

The EU’s partial embargo covers Russian oil brought into the bloc by sea, with an exemption carved out for imports delivered by pipeline following opposition from Hungary. Attila Kisbenedek | Afp | Getty Images

The European Union has agreed on a partial ban on Russian oil imports, according to European Council chief Charles Michel, reported by CNN.

“Agreement to ban export of Russian oil to the EU. This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine,” Michel announced in a tweet on Monday evening.

Michel’s announcement followed an extraordinary European Council summit attended by EU leaders in Brussels on Monday to discuss a sixth package of sanctions against Russia.

“This sanctions package includes other hard-hitting measures: de-Swifting the largest Russian bank Sberbank, banning 3 more Russian state-owned broadcasters, and sanctioning individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine,” Michel added.

Russia also needs to find new customers. India is expected to import 3.36 million metric tonnes in May, according to estimates from Refinitiv — almost 9 times higher than the 2021 monthly average.

Europe can’t prevent Russia from selling oil to non-European countries said Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, on Tuesday.

“We’re not so powerful, but we are the most important client for Russia,” he added.

The EU agreed to ban 90 percent of Russian oil imports by the end of the year, the leaders of the European Council said.

Russian oil delivered by tankers would be banned, while an exemption will be made for the southern segment of the Druzhba pipeline, said Ursula von der Leyen — president of the European Commission — in a press conference. The northern segment of the pipeline serves Poland and Germany — who have agreed to the embargo. The southern part goes to Hungary, Slovakia and Czech republic.

Von der Leyen said an exemption will be made for the southern segment, which accounts for 10% of imports on Russian oil.

“As we have a clear political statement by Poland and Germany that they will, as the others, wind down Russian oil, until the end of the year. We have covered overall 90 percent of Russian oil being wind down during this time frame. Leftover is the roundabout 10 or 11 percent that is covered by the southern Druzhba. We have agreed for the moment being for an exemption,” von der Leyen said.

EU leaders will meet again in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the bloc’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Officials first proposed joining the US and others in banning Russia’s oil a month ago as part of a sixth package of EU sanctions over the country’s invasion of Ukraine. But an agreement has been held up by some countries, like Hungary, that are particularly reliant on Russian crude delivered via pipeline.

An EU official told CNN earlier that banning all seaborne oil would cover more than two-thirds of imports from Russia.

Europe is the biggest buyer of Russian energy. Russian crude accounted for 27% of the bloc’s imports in 2021, according to Eurostat. That’s around 2.4 million barrels per day, data from the International Energy Agency shows. About 35% of that was delivered via pipelines to the bloc, according to the IEA.

But pipeline deliveries made up a much bigger share of Russian oil shipments to Hungary (86%), the Czech Republic (97%) and Slovakia (100%).

The price of Brent crude futures, the European benchmark, soared past $124 a barrel on Tuesday morning, its highest level since early March after Russia invaded Ukraine. Prices have since fallen back slightly.

Europe now needs to find alternate sources for its crude to help bring down surging fuel prices, which helped push eurozone inflation to another record high of 8.1% on Tuesday.


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