EU leaders agree to exempt Hungary from Russian oil embargo

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency (AA)

Leaders approve excluding Russia’s Sberbank from SWIFT system, granting $9.6 billion in credit to Ukraine.

European Union leaders reached a late-night agreement Monday on cutting 90% of Russian oil imports and exempting crude oil transported by pipeline to Hungary under the measures, the president of the European Commission announced.

“I’m very glad that the leaders were able to agree in principle on the sixth sanctions package,” Ursula von der Leyen told reporters following the first day of an EU summit.

According to the conclusions of the summit, the EU leaders agreed “that the sixth package of sanctions against Russia will cover crude oil as well as petroleum products delivered from Russia into Member States, with a temporary exception for crude oil delivered by pipeline.”

As Von der Leyen explained, the EU ambassadors will be “able to finalize a ban on almost 90% of all Russian oil imports by the end of the year” by agreeing on the technical details later this week.

The embargo will cover seaborne oil and partially exempt pipeline oil, she said, adding they will discuss details on exempted oil in the coming months.

The agreement gives an important concession to Hungary, which has been opposing the oil embargo, by exempting oil transported by the Southern Druzhba pipeline, she said.

In the meantime, Poland and Germany, which are supplied by the northern branch of the Druzhba pipeline, promised to “wind down the Russian oil till the end of the year” as others will do with seaborne oil, von der Leyen added.

In a video statement published on Facebook, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said “we managed to crack down” on the European Commission’s “scariest proposal” on cutting Russian oil.

He said his country will be able to keep petrol prices low amid the growing global economic crisis because of the agreement on exempting pipeline oil.

Referring to the divisions between EU member states and the stalled negotiations on the oil embargo, European Council President Charles Michel said the leaders’ agreement sent “a very strong signal” that the EU does not lack unity and “we are able to be tough on defending our values.”

As part of the sixth sanctions package, the EU will also exclude Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international payment system, as well as banning three more Russian state-owned broadcasters from the EU.

Von der Leyen also confirmed that EU leaders had agreed to grant €9 billion ($9.6 billion) in macro-financial assistance to Ukraine, in addition to financial support from other international partners.

The summit’s conclusion also condemned Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and called on Russia “to immediately stop its indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure and to immediately and unconditionally withdraw” its forces.

“The atrocities being committed by Russian forces and the suffering and destruction being inflicted are unspeakable,” they pointed out.

-AA

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