On Monday, EU foreign ministers are to hold discussions regarding the sixth sanctions package against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Calls to cut off oil and gas imports, which, in part, finance Russia’s war efforts, have divided the 27 member nations.
During her visit to Kyiv on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged “rolling sanctions” against Russia over its military actions in Ukraine.
“We have just imposed heavy sanctions on Russia and we are preparing for a sixth wave,” Leyen, who traveled to the Ukrainian capital by train along with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, wrote on her Twitter account.
The European Union on Friday adopted its fifth package of sanctions against Russia following the reports of atrocities committed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. The sanctions imposed since Friday include bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products.
An import ban on coal is the first on an energy import from Russia adopted by the 27-country bloc since the start of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine. The coal ban is expected to drain around four billion euros, or $4.39 billion, per year, from Russia’s overall fossil fuel sales to the EU.
The EU seeks to cut another important revenue source for Russia by blocking Russian vessels from entering EU ports and sanctioning four Russian banks.
“These four banks, which we now totally cut off from the markets, represent 23 percent of market share in the Russian banking sector,” Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement issued last week. “This will further weaken Russia’s financial system.”
Under the fifth package of sanctions, all 27 members will also stop imports of Russian wood and cement, as well as seafood and liquor worth, in total, about 5.5 billion euros, or about six billion dollars, annually. It also includes export bans worth ten billion euros, or $10.9 billion per annum, that involve quantum computers and advanced semiconductors.
So far, Western powers have imposed harsh sanctions on Moscow and EU countries have banned Russian airlines from their airspace. They also agreed to exclude Russian banks, which fell under sanctions, from an international payment system used by thousands of financial institutions known as SWIFT. The existing sanctions have blocked Russia from importing key technologies, including for the defense, energy, telecoms and aviation sectors.
The pledge for more punitive measures against Russia came amid strong western condemnation over war crimes against civilians in the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital.
Western leaders have reacted in horror to the shocking images of bodies of civilians with close-range gunshot wounds strewn along deserted streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 410 civilians had been found in the suburban towns of Bucha and Irpin outside the capital Kyiv that were recently retaken from Russian forces. Satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies on March 18, 19, and 31 show bodies of civilians in the streets of Bucha, disproving Russia’s claims that the Ukrainian government staged the scene. Bucha was retaken from Russian forces on March 31.