On Wednesday, the European Union's top diplomat called for the bloc of 27 nations to ban oil imports form Russia as part of a sixth package sanctions against Moscow in response to its war in Ukraine.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, also suggested that Sberbank (Russia's largest bank) and two other large banks be removed from SWIFT, an international banking payment system.
Von der Leyen addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France) and asked for the EU's member countries to end crude oil imports within six months, and refinements by the end the year.
Von der Leyen stated, "We will ensure that we phase out Russian crude oil in an orderly manner, in a manner that allows us and all our partners to secure alternate supply routes and minimizes the impact of global markets."
To be effective, the proposals must be approved unanimously. They are likely to be the topic of intense debate. Von der Leyen acknowledged that it would be difficult to get all 27 members countries, some of which are landlocked and heavily dependent on Russia for their energy supplies, to agree on oil sanctions.
If approved, the ban against oil imports would be the second set of EU sanctions that will target Russia's lucrative energy sector over the war in Ukraine. This was initiated by President Vladimir Putin on February 24th. The bloc approved previously an embargo on coal imports in addition to the sanctions against various individuals and entities, including Putin and his family members.
Although the EU has begun discussions about a possible natural gas embargo and there is some consensus among members on how to target the fuel used for electricity generation and heating homes, it is still difficult to reach consensus.
Hungary and Slovakia already stated they won't participate in any oil sanctions. Von der Leyen did not elaborate on whether they would be exempted from the sanctions, though this seems likely.
Von der Leyen said also that the EU should pursue high-ranking military officials and other "war crimes in Bucha," which is a suburb of Kyiv. According to Ukrainian officials, the mass killings of civilians by retreating Russian troops in Bucha were committed by their soldiers.
"This is a signal to all the perpetrators of Kremlin war crimes: We know who we are. We will hold your hands accountable. "You're not going to get away with it," von der Leyen stated to the lawmakers.
The EU executive arm is also interested in banks, including Sberbank. Von der Leyen stated that the goal is to "de-SWIFT Sberbank." SWIFT, the largest global system for financial transfer, is the main target.
Von der Leyen stated that Sberbank controls around 37% of Russia's banking sector.
"And we will also deSWIFT two major Russian banks. She stated that this would hit banks that are "systemically critical" to the Russian financial system as well as Putin's ability of destruction.
Von der Leyen said that anyone spreading misinformation about the war on Ukraine would be targeted.
Three big Russian state-owned broadcasters are being banned from our airwaves. They will be banned from distributing their content in any form, be it via satellite, cable, or smartphone apps, within the EU.
Although she didn't directly name the broadcasters, she described them as "mouthpieces that amplify Putin's lies" and "as such." They should not be allowed to spread these lies on our television screens.