States blocking oil embargo complicit in crimes - Kyiv

Updated / Wednesday, 4 May 2022 18:26

The European Commission has proposed a gradual ban on Russian oil imports

Ukraine has said that EU countries blocking an embargo on imports of Russian oil would be complicit in crimes committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian territory by funding Moscow's military.

"If there is any country in Europe who will continue to oppose the embargo on Russian oil, there will be good reason to say, this country is complicit in the crimes committed by Russia in the territory of Ukraine," Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a briefing on social media.

The European Commission has proposed a gradual ban on Russian oil imports to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, phasing out Russian crude oil within six months.

However, Hungary earlier warned that it could not support the proposed ban in its current form as it would "completely destroy" its energy supply security.

Mr Kuleba said that Russia was using oil and gas revenues to "continue financing their war machine".

He added that if any member of the bloc opposes the embargo, "it means one thing: they play on the Russian side and they share responsibility for everything Russia does in Ukraine."

The proposed sanctions by the EU is its toughest sanctions yet against Russia. It comes as Kyiv said Moscow was intensifying an offensive in eastern Ukraine and close Russian ally Belarus announced large-scale army drills.

Nearly ten weeks into a war that has killed thousands of people, uprooted millions and flattened Ukrainian cities, Russia was intensifying its assault, Ukraine's defence ministry said, with nearly 50 air strikes carried out yesterday.

Russia also stepped up strikes on targets in western Ukraine, saying it was disrupting Western arms deliveries.

A new convoy of buses began evacuating more civilians from the ravaged southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting of the war so far and where Moscow said remaining Ukrainian forces remained tightly blockaded.

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 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.

Finally, we now propose a ban on Russian oil.

Let´s be clear: it will not be easy.
But we simply have to work on it.

We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion.

To maximise pressure on Russia, while minimizing the impact on our economies

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 4, 2022

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 agreement when they meet again today.

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 today.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

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.

The Kremlin said Russia was weighing various responses to the EU plans, adding that the sanctions would increase costs for European citizens.

'We are ready'

On the war front, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu renewed a warning that Moscow would seek to hit shipments of weapons into Ukraine by the United States and its NATO allies.

The Russian defence ministry said its forces disabled six railway stations used to supply Western arms to Ukraine's soldiers in the east. It said they also hit 40 military targets including four depots storing ammunition and artillery.

Ukraine's defence ministry said Russian strategic bombers fired 18 rockets "with the aim of damaging our country's transport infrastructure".

Russia published what it said was video footage of two Kalibr cruise missiles being launched from the Black Sea and said they hit unspecified ground targets in Ukraine.

Announcing its surprise military drills, Belarus's defence ministry said they posed no threat to its neighbours, but Ukraine's border service said it could not rule out that Belarusian forces might join Russia's assault.

"Therefore, we are ready," spokesman Andriy Demchenko said.

Some Russian forces entered Ukraine via Belarus when the invasion began on 24 February but Belarusian troops have not been involved so far in what Moscow calls a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and defend its Russian-speaking population from fascists.

Kyiv and its Western backers say Moscow's fascism claim is an absurd pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression that has driven more than five million Ukrainians to flee abroad.

The Kremlin today dismissed speculation Putin would formally declare war on Ukraine and decree a national mobilisation on 9 May, when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Putin is due to deliver a speech and oversee a military parade on Moscow's Red Square.

'We are not afraid'

The convoy leaving Mariupol, organised by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, was heading for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

He did not say how many buses were in the convoy or whether any more civilians had been evacuated from the vast Azovstal steel works, where the city's last defenders are holding out against Russian forces that have seized Mariupol.

The first evacuees from Azovstal arrived by bus in Zaporizhzhia yesterday after cowering for weeks in bunkers beneath the sprawling Soviet-era works.

The mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, reported heavy fighting at Azovstal today and said contact with the Ukrainian fighters there had been lost. More than 30 children are among the civilians there awaiting evacuation, he added.

Russia now claims control of Mariupol, once a city of 400,000 but largely reduced to smoking rubble after weeks of siege and shelling.

It is key to Moscow's efforts to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea - vital for its grain and metals exports - and link Russian-controlled territory in the south and east.

Ukraine remains defiant despite the unrelenting assault.

"Russia struggles to advance and suffers terrible losses. Thus the desperate missile terror across Ukraine. But we are not afraid and the world should not be afraid either," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

"More sanctions on Russia. More heavy weapons for Ukraine. Russia's missile terrorism must be punished."

Ireland will probably be the least affected European country by the latest round of EU sanctions against Russian energy supplies, Minister Eamon Ryan has said.

He added the sanctions are the 'right thing to do' | Read more:

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) May 4, 2022

Ireland will be least affected - Minister

The Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Communications Eamon Ryan has said he believes Ireland will probably be the least affected European country by the latest round of EU sanctions against Russian energy supplies.

He said that, historically, Ireland has the least amount of Russian oil in our stocks, that we have not purchased Russian oil in at least several weeks, and that we are the furthest country to the west of Russia in the European Union.

These factors, he said, mean the new round of sanctions will not have an immediate effect on oil supplies here.

The minister, who was speaking at the launch of a new round of media funding at the BAI headquarters in Dublin, noted that oil prices rose again this morning but he said this is to be expected and that imposing sanctions is the right thing to do. Europe needs to remain united, he said, and stop funding the war by buying Russian oil.

Minister Ryan said the Government will manage the consequences of the EU sanctions, which will mainly affect oil prices here. But because a lot of expectations related to the sanctions had already been built into the oil prices, he said he does not expect them to have a significant immediate impact on prices.

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