Prime Minister Marin hails Russian oil ban as ‘an important step’

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The ban applies to all Russian crude oil and other refined oils transported by sea, but does not affect oil imports by pipeline, at least for now, following opposition from the Hungary.

The decision to partially ban oil imports is part of a sixth EU sanctions package against Russia. Image: Paul Martens/EPA

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) welcomed the agreement reached by EU leaders in Brussels on Monday to block more than two-thirds of Russian oil imports entering the Union.

“We have reached a compromise and we remain united on an issue that has been difficult to negotiate,” Marin said.

The ban applies to all Russian crude oil and other refined oils transported by sea, but does not affect oil imports by pipeline, at least for now, following opposition from the Hungary.

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However, Marin further noted that up to 90% of Russian oil could be banned from entering the EU by the end of this year when Germany and Poland plan to stop imports.

“This is a significant step forward in terms of sanctions,” she added.

Hungary needs more time

Hungary, which depends on the Russian pipeline, was concerned about the impact of the sanctions on the country’s security of supply, the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban to push for the importation of oil by pipeline to be allowed even if other sanctions were imposed.

EU leaders remained tight-lipped after the meeting on the length of the transition periods promised to Hungary and other countries like Slovakia and the Czech Republic, but the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said it was important for EU member states to have time to break away from Russian oil.

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She noted however that the exemption is not a permanent solution.

“We’ll get back to it one way or another,” Von der Leyen said.

Sixth EU sanctions package

The decision to partially ban the import of oil is part of a sixth round of EU sanctions against Russia and took weeks of political wrangling to reach an agreement.

Besides oil, the sixth sanctions package will also hit Russian banks, state media companies and individuals convicted of war crimes. Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, will also be cut off from the SWIFT payment system.

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The European Council, which represents EU member states, has not yet taken a formal decision on adopting new sanctions, but a final decision could be taken as early as Wednesday.

“Some technical details are still being worked out, but a huge deal has now been reached that will mean the oil will be covered by the import ban,” Marin told Yle.

EU leaders have also backed a €9 billion emergency financial aid package for Ukraine, which Marin said consists mainly of grants.

The European Council meeting is expected to continue on Tuesday, during which EU leaders are expected to discuss the food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine as well as the EU security situation.

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