The European Union on Tuesday was set to propose an end to all coal imports from Russia, as member states consider how to handle oil and gas contracts with Moscow firms, sources told several media outlets.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed in a press conference that the coal ban was part of a new raft of sanctions against Russia.
The move would further increase energy costs in Europe, already skyrocketing due to inflation and the conflict in Ukraine.
"We all saw the gruesome pictures from Bucha and other areas from which Russian troops have recently left. These atrocities cannot and will not be left unanswered," von der Leyen said in remarks posted to her official Twitter account.
"The four packages of sanctions have hit hard and limited the Kremlin's political and economic options. In view of events we need to increase our pressure further," she said.
She added that the proposal entailed not only an EU ban on imports of coal from Russia worth 4 billion euros per year, and a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks, including the country's second-largest, VTB.
"We are working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports, and we are reflecting on some of the ideas presented by the member states, such as taxes or specific payment channels such as an escrow account," von der Leyen said.
"To take a clear stand is not only crucial for us in Europe but also for the rest of the world,'' the Commission president said. "A clear stand against Putin's war of choice. A clear stand against the massacre of civilians.''
This fifth round of financial penalties would also target Russian rubber, chemicals, and other products. All told, the sanctions will cost Moscow 9 billion euros ($9.86 billion) a year. In the previous four rounds of sanctions, all measures have passed without serious opposition.
Germany supports coal embargo
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said that his country would consider supporting the embargo. His comments came after Brussels insiders told the press that a proposal for a complete phaseout of Russian coal was on the table.
The proposed new sanctions come as the EU begins to react to the horrific accusations of war crimes against civilians in Ukraine.
A few EU countries, such as Germany and Austria, had previously spoken out against the ban, but appeared to be willing to entertain the idea in the face of mounting evidence that the Russian army was targeting civilians. Economy Minister Robert Habeck signaled to German news agency DPA that he would back the coal phaseout.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock later confirmed that the EU was working on a plan to completely cut ties with Russian fossil fuels, starting with coal.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, European countries have had to reckon with their dependence on Russian energy, most notably gas.
es/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)