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Putin’s price

Ratcheting up pressure on Russia’s already battered $ 1.8 trillion economies, the European Commission proposed phasing out supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022.

Statesman News Service |

A 21st-century edition of the early 19th-century Concert of Europe appeared to have been put in place on Wednesday against Russia. It thus comes about that the European Union has tightened the screws on the Kremlin, in parallel to the claim by Kiev that Moscow is intensifying its offensive in eastern Ukraine. Belarus, a close ally, has announced large-scale army drills. Indeed, on Wednesday the EU proposed its toughest sanctions against Russia, notably a phased oil embargo. The war is now in its tenth week; thousands have been killed or injured, millions uprooted, and cities flattened in eastern and southern Ukraine. Moscow is said to have carried out nearly 50 airstrikes on Tuesday alone. 

Ratcheting up pressure on Russia’s already battered $ 1.8 trillion economies, the European Commission proposed phasing out supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022. It is an index to the ballooning hike that the price of Brent crude jumped four per cent to $109 a barrel on Wednesday. If EU governments concur with the plan, it would be a watershed development. But Hungary and Slovakia want to be exempted from the ban for now. There is, however, no immediate deal; EU envoys are expected to move closer to an agreement at their next meeting. 

Apart from oil imports, the European Union also announced sanctions targeting Russia’s largest bank ~ Sherbank ~ two other lenders, three state broadcasters as well as army officers and other individuals accused of war crimes. The EU is yet to target Russian natural gas that is used to heat homes and generate electricity across the bloc. On one hand, this suggests the bloc is still not in a position to effect sweeping reprisals; on the other, it suggests there are still chinks in the sanctions armour. 

The Kremlin is said to be looking at various options in response to the EU’s wartime agenda, adding that the sanctions would considerably increase costs for European citizens. Sanctions are theoretically severely crippling but do not necessarily lead to a change of regime. Not wholly unrelated is President Putin’s message to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to the effect that the West must stop supplying weapons to Ukraine. The Russian President has accused Ukraine of committing atrocities and urged the West to stop them by withholding arms, according to the Kremlin’s account of the interaction. 

Mr Macron decided last week to resume his regular dialogue with Mr Putin. Franco-Russian negotiations had been in suspended animation following the exposure of the massacre of Ukrainian civilians by occupying Russian troops in Bucha. The economic war is being waged in parallel to the clash of shields.