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Greenpeace activists block a Russian oil tanker

Greenpeace activists block a ship carrying Russian oil on the Baltic Sea with a placard reading, "No money for war!" on March 23, 2022. (Photo: Frank Molter/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

'No Time for Half-Measures': Greenpeace Rebukes EU's Partial Ban on Russian Oil

The new embargo exempts pipeline imports at the behest of Hungary's far-right leader Viktor Orbán.

Jake Johnson

The global climate group Greenpeace criticized the European Union's newly announced embargo on Russian oil as inadequate, noting Tuesday that the ban includes a key carve-out that will allow the nation's crude to continue flowing into E.U. countries through pipelines.

"A partial ban on Russian oil is not a ban and it's unacceptable that money from E.U. countries is even partially funding this brutal war," said Silvia Pastorelli, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace E.U. "This is no time for half-measures."

"If the E.U. can't announce an end to all imports of Russian oil, leaders must find other ways to stem the flow of cash to Putin."

The deal among members of the 27-nation bloc came after weeks of tense negotiations and obstruction by Hungary, whose far-right leader Viktor Orbán is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hungary, a landlocked country that is highly dependent on Russian oil, eventually agreed to the deal after winning its demand to exclude pipelines—a major win for Orbán.

"An agreement was reached," Orbán wrote in a triumphant Facebook post late Monday. "Hungary is exempt from the oil embargo!"

While the pipeline exemption was deemed "temporary," E.U. leaders have not settled on exactly how long it will last.

The new embargo also does not touch Russian gas, which makes up 40% of the E.U.'s total gas imports.

E.U. leaders said the agreement will eliminate roughly 90% of the bloc's Russian oil imports by the end of 2022, depriving Moscow of billions of dollars in revenue. Last year, before Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, around 27% of the E.U.'s oil imports came from Russia, the third-largest oil producer in the world behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said the embargo "immediately covers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia," referring to deliveries that arrive by tanker.

As Euronews reported, "Around two-thirds of Russian oil imported to the E.U. is shipped in via ports, with the rest coming directly through the Druzhba pipeline, a massive conduit that directly feeds refineries in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Germany."

"These refineries have for decades grown accustomed to the reliable and comparably cheap deliveries of a specific type of Russian oil," the outlet noted.

Pastorelli argued Tuesday that "if the E.U. can't announce an end to all imports of Russian oil, leaders must find other ways to stem the flow of cash to Putin by immediately cutting demand in the oil-guzzling transport sector."

Greenpeace, whose campaigners have taken direct action in recent weeks to disrupt Moscow's oil shipments, estimates that E.U. countries have spent nearly $58 billion on Russian fossil fuels since the nation's war on Ukraine began in late February.

The deadly assault has dragged on for more than three months, with no end in sight, as Western governments ramp up sanctions on Russia and continue pouring heavy weaponry into Ukraine. The U.S., which has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of arms, banned imports of Russian fossil fuels in March.

After the E.U. announced its agreement on Monday, Russian representatives said publicly that Moscow is unfazed, suggesting that the country will have no issue locating other outlets for its crude supplies.

"Russia will find other importers," tweeted Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna.

The E.U.'s attempts thus far to target Russia's fossil fuel sector have sparked retaliation from Moscow. Last month, Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom cut off gas supplies to E.U. members Poland and Bulgaria.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gazprom said it has completely suspended gas shipments to the Netherlands' GasTerra, citing its refusal to pay in rubles.


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