A Russian state flag flies on the top of a diesel plant in the Yarakta Oil Field, owned by Irkutsk Oil Company (INK), in Irkutsk Region, Russia March 10, 2019. Picture taken March 10, 2019. Photo: Reuters
The EU has proposed its toughest sanctions yet against Russia on Wednesday, including a phased oil embargo, as Ukraine came under further heavy Russian bombardment and nervously monitored large-scale army drills in neighbouring Belarus, a close Moscow ally.
Nearly 10 weeks into a war that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and flattened cities and towns in eastern and southern Ukraine, Russia also stepped up attacks on targets in western Ukraine, partly to disrupt Western arms deliveries, Reuters reports.
A new convoy of buses began evacuating more civilians from the devastated 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 supplies of Russian crude oil within 6 months and refined products by the end of 2022. The price of Brent crude jumped 3% to more than $108 a barrel after the news.
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. Hungary and Slovakia want to be exempted from the ban for now, sources said.
“(President Vladimir) Putin must pay a price, a high price, for his brutal aggression,” Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, to applause from lawmakers.
She also announced sanctions targeting Russia’s largest bank Sberbank, 2 other lenders, 3 state broadcasters and army officers and other individuals accused of war crimes.
The EU has yet to target Russian natural gas, used to heat homes and generate electricity across the bloc.
Putin raised the economic stakes further for Kyiv’s Western backers on Tuesday by announcing plans to block exports of vital raw materials.
On the war front, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said his military would consider NATO transport carrying weapons in Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance, as targets to be destroyed, RIA news agency reported.
Meanwhile, NATO says individual member states are sending military supplies not troops.
Shoigu comments came after the ministry said it had disabled 6 railway stations in Ukraine used to supply Ukrainian forces with Western-made arms in the country’s east.
Writing by Muzha Kucha