EU chief calls for Russian oil ban in new set of sanctions

EU chief calls for Russian oil ban in new set of sanctions

The European Union's chief executive Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed a phased oil embargo on Russia, as well as sanctions on its top bank and to ban Russian broadcasters from European airwaves.

The plan, if agreed by EU governments, would be a watershed for the world's largest trading bloc, which is dependent on Russian energy and must find alternative supplies.

"Today, we will propose to ban all Russian oil from Europe," the European Commission President told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Commission's measures include phasing out supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022. Von der Leyen pledged to minimise the impact on European economies.

If agreed, the embargo would follow the United States and Britain, which have already imposed bans to cut one of the largest income streams to the Russian economy, as the West buys more than half of its crude and petroleum products from Russia.

"We are addressing our dependency on Russian oil. And let's be clear, it will not be easy because some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil, but we simply have to do it," she said.

Ambassadors from the EU's 27 governments are expected to adopt the Commission proposals as early as this week, allowing them to become law soon after.

Apart from oil, the latest round of sanctions proposes hitting Sberbank, Russia's top lender, adding it to several banks that have already been excluded from the SWIFT messaging system.

"We de-SWIFT Sberbank – by far Russia's largest bank, and two other major banks. By that, we hit banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin's ability to wage destruction," von der Leyen said.