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European Commission calls for new Russia sanctions

May 4, 2022

The president of the European Commission outlined a new round of sanctions on Russia, including plans to ban oil imports. The new measures will also target a top bank and Russian broadcasters.

Ursula von der Leyen during her speech at the European Parliament
Von der Leyen announced the expulsion of Sberbank from the SWIFT payment systemImage: Jean-Francois Badias/AP/picture alliance

EU unveils plans to ban Russian oil

European Union countries would stop importing Russian oil and refined products under a proposal presented Wednesday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The ban would be part of the EU's sixth package of sanctions targeting Moscow for its war in Ukraine,but faces some resistance from eastern EU member states.

What is Brussels proposing?

The measure would see a ban on Russian supplies of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year, von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined," she added.

The proposal requires approval from all 27 EU member countries to come into effect and is likely to trigger a substantial debate.

"It will not be easy. Some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil. But we simply have to work on it," von der Leyen said.

Import freeze: What's Russia doing with its oil?

The EU chief said that the phasing out of Russian oil will be done in an "orderly fashion" and in a way that allows the EU and its partners to secure "alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets.''

However, Hungary has responded by saying it would not be able to support the ban in its current form. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday that the embargo would destroy his country's energy security.

Szijjarto said Hungary could only agree to these measures if crude oil imports via pipeline from Russia were exempted.

About 25% of the EU's oil comes from Russia and most of it goes toward gasoline and diesel for vehicles. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic both say they are also in discussion about possible opt-out from the full embargo.

What other sanctions are in the new EU plan?

The EU leader also announced the expulsion of Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, and two other major banks from the SWIFT international banking payment system.

Russian military officials accused of committing atrocities in Ukraine's Bucha and Mariupol will also be targeted with sanctions.

"This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin's war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable," von der Leyen said.

Three more Russian state-owned broadcasters will also be targeted in the new sanctions, the top EU official said.

"We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces, that amplify Putin's lies and propaganda aggressively," von der Leyen said, referring to the Russian president.

Moreover, accountancy services and public relations firms will also be barred from doing business in Russia, she added.

"The Kremlin relies on accountants, consultants and spin-doctors from Europe. And this will now stop," she said.

The European Commission also proposed sanctions targeting of Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Kirill has described Putin's rule as a "miracle of God", crediting him with ending the economic turmoil of the 1990s.

Some in EU question use of additional sanctions

Hungary said the proposed ban on Russian oil imports would endanger its energy security.

"We don't see any plan or guarantee on how even a transition could be managed on the basis of the current proposals and what would guarantee Hungary's energy security," the Hungarian government's press office said in a statement sent to the AFP news agency.

Czech Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela was also critical of the details o the ban, saying it lacked a burden-sharing mechanism.

The proposal does not include ... how the gap will be distributed, meaning how to share it fairly, and a proposal on joint purchases and joint distribution," Sikela told Reuters news agency. "We are still studying it, but it is a problem for me."

dvv/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)