The EU on Thursday approved a sixth sanctions package against Moscow including an oil embargo with exemptions but backed out of blacklisting the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, after tough negotiations under pressure from Hungary .
The text, approved Thursday by the ambassadors of the Twenty-Seven, must still receive the written agreement of each Member State with a view to its publication Friday in the Official Journal to allow the entry into force of the measures, according to the French presidency of the Council of the EU.
The European Commission had proposed to include on the list of people sanctioned by an asset freeze and a ban on entry into the EU the patriarch Kirill for his support for the Russian offensive but Hungary opposed it.
“We managed to get Patriarch Kirill removed from the list. It was a matter of principle for us because of our commitment to religious freedom,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto commented on Facebook.
Budapest had also blocked a total embargo on imports of Russian oil. Hungary, a country without access to the sea, depends for 65% of its oil consumption on that carried by the Druzhba pipeline.
EU sanctions must be taken unanimously.
During a summit on Monday in Brussels, the Heads of State and Government of the 27 ended up reaching an agreement that should lead to a reduction of some 90% of their imports of Russian oil by the end of the year in order to to cut off the financing of the war waged by Moscow against Ukraine.
The agreement provides for a gradual halt in imports of Russian oil transported by boat, ie 2/3 of European purchases. In order to lift Hungary's veto which demanded guarantees for its energy security, a provisional exemption has been provided for the oil transported by Druzhba, which concerns, in addition to this country, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Germany and Poland having undertaken for their part to cease their imports through this pipeline by the end of 2022, in total 90% of Russian oil exports to the EU should be stopped by the end of the year.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed this new agreement on "strong sanctions against Putin and the Kremlin", in a tweet.
Under negotiation for a month, the new sanctions package also plans to extend the EU's blacklist by adding around sixty personalities, including many Russian soldiers suspected of "war crimes" in Boutcha, members of the family of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, but also former Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva. Some media and opponents have indeed attributed to it a relationship for years with Vladimir Putin, which the Russian president had denied in 2008.
It also includes the exclusion of three Russian banks from the Swift international financial system, including Sberbank, the main banking establishment in Russia, as well as a Belarusian bank. Seven Russian banks had already been banned from this system by the Europeans.
Three Russian TV channels, including Russia 24 and Russia RTR, will be banned from broadcasting in the EU.
European sanctions, taken since 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, already concern 1.091 people and 80 entities.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Alexander Novak warned Thursday that European consumers would be the first to “suffer” from the oil embargo. "I do not exclude that there is a great shortage of petroleum products in the EU," he added.
In 2021, the bill for European imports of Russian oil (80 billion euros) was four times higher than that of gas purchases from Russia.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)