EU executive proposes eighth batch of sanctions against Russia

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BRUSSELS, Sept 28 (Reuters) – The European Union executive proposed on Wednesday an eighth round of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including tighter trade restrictions, more individual blacklistings and an oil price cap for third countries. 

The proposal will now go to the bloc’s 27 member countries, which will need to overcome their differences to implement the new sanctions on top of seven sets of punitive measures imposed on Russia since its forces swept into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

That may take time despite the EU being spurred into action by Russia’s military mobilisation last week, nuclear threats and steps to annex a swathe of Ukraine, after invading the former Soviet republic that aspires to join the EU.

“We do not accept the sham referenda (in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine) nor any kind of annexation…And we are determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters. 

“We are proposing a new package of biting sanctions.”

The Group of Seven major industrialised countries – which includes EU countries Italy, France and Germany – have already agreed to put an oil price cap in place via insurers.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on the EU to further cut money flows to Russia from fossil fuel sales. 

“If you are doing nothing it means you are just prolonging this war with Ukraine. This is just ridiculous. The whole civilised world has to be united on that,” said Oleg Ustenko.

While the EU already agreed to stop importing Russian oil starting later this year, Ustenko said “blood money” would keep on flowing to Moscow unless European companies were banned from insuring Russia’sseaborne shipments to other countries. 

UNANIMITY

The proposed sanctions fall short of harder-hitting measures, including a ban on importing Russian diamonds, sought by Russia hawks Poland and the three Baltic countries. 

But EU states need unanimity to impose sanctions and the oil cap might be too much for Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who cultivates close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been a vocal critic of economic restrictions.

Ustenko hoped Hungary would eventually agree, and that EU countries with large shipping fleets – Greece, Malta and Cyprus – would also back more measures hitting Russian oil revenues.

Speaking next to von der Leyen, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was also blacklisting more individuals from Russia’s defence sector, those involved in ad hoc votes organised by Moscow in occupied Ukrainian territories, those the West blames for spreading Russian propaganda and those helping to circumvent sanctions against Moscow. 

Poland’s EU ambassador said the proposed individual sanctions would include Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close Kremlin ally, after previous attempts to blacklist him in the EU were blocked by Hungary. 

Von der Leyen said a new imports ban would cost Russia 7 billion euros in lost revenues and that the EU would also expand the list of prohibited exports “to deprive the Kremlin’s war machine of key technologies”.

Under the proposal, European companies would be barred from providing more services to Russia and European citizens would not be allowed to sit on boards of Russian state companies.

This would be a nod to popular outrage over the cases of Gerhard Schroeder and Francois Fillon – former top European politicians who subsequently took jobs on Russian boards.

The Commission was due to present details of the proposal to member states at a closed-door meeting later on Wednesday and the 27 were expected to have a first discussion on Friday before national EU leaders meet in Prague on Oct. 6-7.

(Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and John Chalmers, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by John Chalmers, Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich)

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