European Council President said the ban would immediately cover more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia “cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine.”
KYIV/LVIV: EU leaders agreed on Monday to ban most imports of Russian oil to the 27-nation bloc as Ukrainian and Russian forces battled on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, the last city still held by Kyiv in Ukraine`s strategic Luhansk province. European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter the ban, agreed at an EU summit in Brussels, would immediately cover more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia “cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine.”
EU leaders meeting in Brussels also agreed to cut off the largest Russian bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT system and to ban three more Russian state-owned broadcasters, Michel added.
The leaders said they had agreed to cut 90% of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year, resolving an impasse over the bloc`s toughest sanction yet on Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine three months ago.
They agreed that the oil embargo would include exemptions for Hungary – a landlocked country that relies heavily on crude piped from Russia and which had been the main obstacle to a deal – and others concerned about the economic impact of the move.
Situation remained ‘extremely difficult’ in Donbas
Shortly before the announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the situation remained “extremely difficult” in the Donbas region, where Russia has focus of its military effort after failing to capture Ukraine`s capital, Kyiv, in March.
Zelenskiy had called the EU too soft on Moscow when it appeared leaders would not reach an agreement on the oil ban.
Russia has been seeking to seize the entire Donbas region, consisting of Luhansk and Donetsk, another province Moscow claims on behalf of separatist proxies.
Capturing Sievierodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river would give Moscow effective control of Luhansk and allow the Kremlin to declare some form of victory after more than three months of death and destruction in Ukraine.
But by focusing on a battle for the single small city, Russia could leave other territories open to Ukrainian counterstrikes.
In his nightly address, Zelenskiy said the Donbas situation “remains extremely difficult” and said the Russian army was “trying to gather a superior force to put more and more pressure on our defenders.”
“The Russian army has now gathered there the maximum combat power,” he said of Donbas as a whole.
Russia ready to facilitate unhindered grain exports from Ukraine
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin, in talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, said Russia was ready to facilitate unhindered grain exports from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey.
Western leaders have chided Russia for blockading Ukrainian ports, sending prices of grain and other commodities soaring. The United Nations has said a global food crisis is deepening and has been trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine`s grain exports.
“Emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters,” the Kremlin said of Putin`s call with Erdogan.
Putin said if sanctions were lifted, Russia could export significant volumes of fertilizers and agricultural products.
Zelenskiy also spoke with Erdogan and said they discussed food security and defence cooperation, “and, of course, how to accelerate the end of this war.”