EU leans toward ban on Russian oil by year-end, diplomats say

A Russian state flag flies on top of a diesel plant at the Yarakta oil field, owned by Irkutsk Oil Company (INK), in Irkutsk region, Russia, on March 10, 2019. Photo taken on March 10, 2019. March 2019. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

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BRUSSELS, May 1 (Reuters) – The European Union is leaning towards a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, two EU diplomats said, following talks between the European Commission and EU member states this Weekend.

The European Union is preparing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine a little over two months ago, which Moscow describes as a special military operation.

The package is expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks, as well as more people and companies.

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The Commission, which is coordinating the EU response, has held so-called “confessional” talks with small groups of EU countries and will seek to reaffirm its sanctions plan in time for a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.

EU energy ministers will also meet in the Belgian capital on Monday to discuss the issue.

EU diplomats said some EU countries were able to stop using oil before the end of 2022, but others, particularly members further south, were concerned about the impact on prices.

Germany, one of Russia’s biggest oil buyers, appeared ready to accept the late-2022 cut, diplomats said, but countries including Austria, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia had reservations.

An adviser to Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz said Germany backs an EU ban on Russian oil imports but needed a few months to secure alternatives.

“We are asking for a considered period of liquidation,” the Financial Times quoted Joerg Kukies as saying. “We want to stop buying Russian oil, but we need some time to make sure we can get other sources of oil in our country.”

Kukies said Germany wanted to ensure that a refinery in Schwedt, in northeastern Germany, operated by Russia’s state oil company Rosneft, could receive non-Russian oil brought by tankers to Rostock in the Baltic Sea.

He told the Financial Times that to allow this, the port of Rostock would have to be deepened and work on the pipeline that would connect it to Schwedt.

Some EU countries have proposed opting for a cap on the price they are willing to pay for Russian oil. However, it would still leave them forced to pay higher prices for supplies from elsewhere.

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Information from Philip Blenkinsop; edited by barbara lewis

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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