EU countries agree on new Russia sanctions, including coal embargo

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By Euronews
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of March 24-25 2022
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of March 24-25 2022   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

The European Union confirmed on Friday the adoption of a fifth round  of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.

National representatives agreed on Thursday on a Russian coal embargo and other measures, which include a ban on four Russian banks and on access for Russian ships to EU ports.

The decision comes amid allegations that Russian soldiers executed civilians in the villages and towns outside of Kyiv.

The package of sanctions was approved by the EU's Committee of Permanent Representatives, the French EU Council presidency said in a tweet on Thursday, and was confirmed by the European Council on Friday.

Linking the sanctions to Russian atrocities and elsewhere, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the aim was to "stop the reckless, inhuman and aggressive behaviour of the Russian troops" and make it clear to the Kremlin that its "illegal aggression comes at a heavy cost".

"This very substantial package extends the sanctions against Russia to new areas and provides in particular, sanctions against oligarchs, Russian propaganda actors, members of the security and military apparatus and entities in the industrial and technological sector linked to Russian aggression against Ukraine," the French EU Council presidency said via Twitter on Thursday.

It includes the freezing of assets of several Russian banks as well as a ban on exports to Russia including high-tech goods of up to €10 billion and the closure of EU ports to Russian-flagged ships.

The measures include the first EU sanctions against Russian energy with a coal embargo estimated to be worth €4 billion per year.

The ban on imports of Russian coal and other solid fossil fuels will become effective from August 2022.

There's also a ban on Russian and Belarusian road transport in the EU, with some exceptions such as for medicine, food products and humanitarian aid. 

EU member states, many of which are heavily dependent on Russian energy, had as of yet been unable to agree on sanctions on Russian energy.

During a debate in the European Parliament, EU Council President Charles Michel said sanctions on Russian oil and gas are likely to be needed eventually.

"We must close the loopholes. We must target any attempt to circumvent sanctions and we are ready to move quickly," Michel said on Wednesday.

"We have further coordinated robust sanctions. The new package includes a ban on coal imports. And ladies and gentlemen, I think that measures on oil and even gas will also be needed sooner or later."

Hungary has said it would block any EU effort to extend sanctions to Russian oil and gas.

The fifth round of EU sanctions follows those of the United States and the United Kingdom that were announced on Wednesday.

The US sanctions targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin's family, singling out his two adult daughters in addition to key Russian banks.

The EU and the UK followed up on Friday with similar sanctions imposed on Putin's daughters.

Additional sources • AP