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EU Proposes Ban on Russian Oil, Bank Sanctions

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Workers walk past a storage tank at the Kaleikino oil pumping station of Transneft Kama Region near Almetyevsk, Russia, April 27, 2022.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled new punitive actions against Russia on Wednesday, announcing plans to cut off European purchases of Russian crude oil within six months and end imports of refined energy products by the end of 2022.

The package must be unanimously approved by EU members to take effect.

"Let's be clear, it will not be easy because some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil, but we simply have to do it," von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

She said the phased approach would allow for EU members to find alternatives to Russian imports and blunt negative effects on the global energy markets, helping to maximize pressure on Russia while minimizing collateral economic damage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed for more extensive European actions to cut off imports of Russian energy, saying earlier this week that a new EU package "should include clear steps to block Russia's revenues from energy resources."

The proposed EU sanctions also include removing Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, from the international SWIFT transaction and messaging system, and listing high-ranking military officers "who committed war crimes in Bucha and those responsible for the inhuman siege of Mariupol."

"This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin: We know who you are, we will hold you accountable, you are not getting away with this," von der Leyen said.

She added that Russian President Vladimir Putin "must pay a high price for his brutal aggression."

"Putin wanted to wipe out Ukraine from the map and he will clearly not succeed," she said. "On the contrary. Ukraine has risen in bravery and in unity, and it is his own country, Russia, that Putin is sinking."

In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be speaking with other leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies about potential new sanctions against Russia.

"We're always open to additional sanctions," Biden told reporters. "I'll be speaking with the members of the G7 this week about what we're going to do or not do."

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A senior U.S. defense official said that Russian military progress in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region is "stalled... very slow and uneven."

Russia has been launching about 40 to 50 missile strikes a day but was "still wary" of flying inside Ukraine. Russian forces have been meeting stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces as they attempt to advance toward Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, the official said.

Russian troops also appear to be targeting critical infrastructure in western Ukraine but that the attacks have had "no appreciable impact," the official said.

President Zelenskyy said Russia intensified its shelling in the eastern and southern parts of the country, actions that he characterized as Russian forces reacting "with great anger to our successes."

"The sheer scale of today's shelling clearly does not indicate that Russia has any special sort of specific military aim," he said in a Tuesday evening address.

Russia's targets included the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, where the last remaining Ukrainian troops have been holed up in the Azovstal steel plant along with several hundred civilians.

The damaged facilities of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, are seen in this May 3, 2022, photo.
The damaged facilities of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, are seen in this May 3, 2022, photo.

The United Nations said Tuesday that 101 people had been safely evacuated from the site and taken, along with other civilians from the town of Manhush, to the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, about 230 kilometers northwest of Mariupol, where they are receiving initial humanitarian assistance and health care.

Osnat Lubrani, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said she was "pleased and relieved" that the civilians, including older men and women and children, had been evacuated from Azovstal plant.

"Over the past days, traveling with the evacuees, I have heard mothers, children and frail grandparents speak about the trauma of living day after day under unrelenting heavy shelling and the fear of death, and with extreme lack of water, food, and sanitation," Lubrani said.

"They spoke of the hell they have experienced since this war started, seeking refuge in the Azovstal plant, many being separated from family members whose fate they still don't know," she said. "I saw the tears of joy as family members trapped in different parts of the plant for two months were reunited."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss discussed support for Ukraine in a telephone call.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the diplomats talked about "additional security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and continued transatlantic unity," as well as "economic consequences for those who continue to provide financial or material support that aids the Kremlin's war against Ukraine."

Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Press and Reuters.

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