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A demonstrator lies on the Rathausmarkt and holds a sign with the inscription "Russian Oil & Gas kills" in Hamburg, Germany on April 9, 2022. (Photo: Jonas Walzberg/dpa via Getty Images)

A demonstrator lies on the Rathausmarkt and holds a sign with the inscription "Russian Oil & Gas kills" in Hamburg, Germany on April 9, 2022. (Photo: Jonas Walzberg/dpa via Getty Images)

EU Proposed Russian Oil Blockade Aimed at 'Deflating Putin's War Chest'

"The answer to Europe's oil addiction cannot be to simply find new suppliers," said one climate campaigner, but must be to accelerate "the transition to renewable energy."

Andrea Germanos

The European Commission announced Wednesday a proposed phaseout of all Russian oil imports over a six-month period as part of a fresh package of sanctions to make President Vladimir Putin "pay a high price for his brutal aggression" in Ukraine.

The announcement came as climate campaigners continue to urge the U.S. and E.U. to respond to the invasion with policies and investments that boost renewable energy—a strategy that would address both the planetary crisis of global heating and Europe's heavy reliance on Russian fuels.

"This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

A phased-in ban "allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets," she said, announcing a six-month phaseout for crude oil and an end-of-year timeline for refined products.

Europe currently relies on Russia for about 25% of its oil imports and 40% of its gas imports.

Von der Leyen also announced that Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, and two other major banks would be disconnected from SWIFT, the key international payment system.

Additionally, she announced sanctions against high-ranking military officials linked to crimes in Bucha and Mariupol and said that three large Russian state-owned broadcasters—labeled by von der Leyen as "mouthpieces that amplify Putin's lies and propaganda aggressively"—would be banned from E.U. airwaves.

The proposal requires unanimous consent from the E.U.'s 27 members, and at this point, there's a split on the move. As CNN noted, "Slovakia is reportedly seeking an exemption, and Hungary said Wednesday said it was worried about what the proposal would mean for its energy security."

The Associated Press further reported Wednesday:

The E.U. has started discussions on a possible natural gas embargo, but consensus among member countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes is more difficult to secure...

Hungary and Slovakia have already said they wouldn't take part in any oil sanctions. Von der Leyen didn't elaborate on whether they would receive an exemption from the sanctions, although it appeared likely.

According to Greenpeace EU climate campaigner Silvia Pastorelli: "The E.U. ban on Russian oil is long overdue and a significant step towards deflating Putin's war chest. However, it will take effect too slowly, allowing Putin to find other customers for his oil between now and the end of the year."

Pastorelli said that "the answer to Europe's oil addiction cannot be to simply find new suppliers." Instead, she said, it is "to get to the root of the problem by cutting oil consumption and accelerating the transition to renewable energy."

She urged European leaders "to rapidly transform the transport sector and fast-track solutions that can be implemented quickly, such as a ban on short-haul flights, moving transport from road to rail, and boosting public transport."

"As people in Europe struggle with sky-high fuel prices," said Pastorelli, "E.U. leaders must stop the fossil fuel industry from profiteering on war, conflicts, and the climate crisis, and impose taxes on these immoral profits."

Advocacy group Global Witness similarly said a ban on Russian crude must happen more quickly than by the end of 2022.

"It should be a full ban on the trade of oil," the group tweeted, "and must also target fossil gas."

"The Ukrainian people, and the climate crisis, demand that Europe acts NOW," the group added.

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