According to the EU, the pact will effectively reduce 90 percent of oil imports by the end of the year, cutting off a vital source of money for Moscow’s Ukraine war.
After negotiating a compromise with Hungary, European Union leaders have agreed in principle to cut 90 percent of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year, thus cutting off a crucial source of money for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 27-nation organisation has been wrangling for weeks over a comprehensive ban on Russian oil, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has refused to budge, claiming that an embargo would devastate his country’s economy.
Leaders reached an agreement in Brussels on Monday to exempt deliveries arriving in Europe via the Druzhba pipeline.
“Agreement to prohibit Russian oil exports to the European Union.” “This immediately covers more than two-thirds of Russia’s oil imports, severing a major source of funding for its war machine,” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted at the end of the first day of a two-day leaders’ conference.
Michel added, “Maximum pressure on Russia to terminate the war.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the EU’s executive secretary, said the measure “will effectively reduce roughly 90% of Russian oil supplies to the EU by the end of the year,” when Germany and Poland have committed to stop pipeline deliveries.
Tankers supply two-thirds of Russian oil imported into the EU, while the Druzhba pipeline delivers one-third. After Poland and Germany, which are also connected to the pipeline, quit receiving Russian oil by the end of the year, the embargo will be 90 percent.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on screen, left) told EU leaders that they were being too soft on Russia and that they needed to be stronger. [AP Photo/Olivier Matthys]
The remaining 10% will be excluded from sanctions for a limited time so that Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, which are all connected to the southern portion of the pipeline, can continue to use fuel that is difficult to replace.
“Russia has decided to keep fighting in Ukraine. “We are taking fresh decisive sanctions tonight as Europeans, united and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
Other sanctions, such as disconnecting Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, from the global SWIFT system, banning three state media, and blacklisting individuals accused of war crimes, can now take effect as a result of the agreement.
Criticism of the EU by Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticised EU leaders for being too soft on Moscow in a video speech to the conference earlier.
“Why are you reliant on Russia, on their pressure, rather than the other way around?” Russia must be completely reliant on you. Why is it that Russia can still make nearly a billion euros a day selling energy?” According to Zelenskyy.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the EU has imposed five rounds of sanctions, exhibiting uncommon speed and solidarity in light of the measures’ complexity.
However, the wrangling over an oil import restriction revealed a struggle to broaden sanctions as Europe’s economic risk grows due to the fact that so many countries rely on Russia for energy supply.
As he exited the Brussels discussions, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed surprise at the turn of events.
“I wasn’t hopeful at the start of the evening, but by 11 p.m. or so, everything was done,” he said, adding that the remaining technical details should not be difficult to fix.
Nonetheless, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Houston in the United States, believes that the impact on Russia may be less than initially assumed, given the involvement of countries like India and China.
He told Al Jazeera, “They will be able to get discounted Russian oil at even lower costs than they have been in the past few months.”
He also stated that the embargo would be beneficial for Iran and Venezuela.
“They might be able to reach out to Europe and the United States and begin to normalise their capacity to reintroduce their energy back into the global market,” he continued.
The meeting also brought political support for a nine-billion-euro ($9.7-billion) package of EU loans for Ukraine to keep its government running and pay employees for around two months, with a tiny component of grants to cover part of the interest.
Leaders also agreed to establish an international fund to help Ukraine recover after the war, with the details to be worked out later.