US president announces Russian fossil fuel import ban 'in close coordination' with allies

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By Euronews  with AP
President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia's economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine
President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia's economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

US President Joe Biden has announced a ban on Russian energy imports including oil, liquified natural gas and coal, toughening the toll on Russia's economy in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The move came after pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the international community to cut off the imports, which had been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions put in place on Russia over the invasion.

Energy exports have kept a steady stream of cash flowing to Russia despite otherwise severe restrictions on its financial sector.

In announcing the president's remarks on Tuesday, the White House said Biden would outline "actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine."

Britain also announced its own Russian oil ban on Tuesday afternoon, with a gradual phase-out by the end of 2022.

Britain's Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote on Twitter that businesses "should use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected."

"The government will also work with companies through a new Taskforce on Oil to support them to make use of this period in finding alternative supplies," Mr Kwarteng wrote.

Unlike EU, US does not rely on Russian energy imports

Only 8% of the US oil and petroleum imports came from Russia in 2021, and the country doesn't import any natural gas from Moscow at all.

Analysts say the US ban in itself will have little impact, as imports have been declining rapidly in recent years, and Russia could potentially sell the oil in other markets like China or India, but likely at a steep discount because fewer and fewer buyers are accepting Russian crude.

If the EU were to join a ban on Russian oil, petroleum, and gas imports, it would have a much more substantial impact, but that is unlikely to happen in the short term.

Natural gas from Russia accounts for one-third of Europe's gas consumption. On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz clarified that his country, Europe's single-largest consumer of Russian energy, has no plans to join in any ban.

The EU will instead commit this week to phase out its reliance on Russia for energy needs as soon as possible, but filling the void without crippling EU economies will likely take some time.