The European Union’s latest set of sanctions, which includes a partial oil embargo against Russia, drew applause from Ukraine on Tuesday and mixed reviews from energy analysts.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Monday night’s deal, which bans the delivery of oil on barges but temporarily exempts deliveries by pipeline, will effectively cut around 90% of the country’s oil imports. Russia to the EU by the end of the year.
“The oil embargo will speed up the countdown to the collapse of the Russian economy and war machine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
Analyst Simone Tagliapietra said Russia would be able to sell much of the oil, but likely at a substantial discount. Tagliapietra, an energy expert with the Brussels think tank Bruegel, called the embargo a “crushing blow”.
Matteo Villa, Italian analyst for the ISPI think tank, was less convinced.
“With oil prices rising and Russian exports holding up for now, the ‘blow’ received by the Russians is falling,” he added. Villa tweeted. “The cost for Europeans is increasing.”
Analysts at Russia-based Sinara Investment Bank ignored the embargo.
“Although the measures announced by the European Union appear threatening, we do not see a crippling impact on Russia’s oil sector,” the bank said in a statement. “Russian oil producers have time to solve logistical problems and change their customer base.”
►Kuleba called on the West to equip Ukraine with 155 mm guns and a multiple rocket launcher system. If Ukraine had them, its fighters would have already liberated Kherson and other cities, he said. President Joe Biden has balked at providing Ukraine with missile systems capable of reaching Russian cities.
►Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that the country was on the “right track” to receive new funding from the European Union to support the more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees that Poland has hosted and to compensate for the weapons sent to Ukraine.
►The Ukraine national football team will play against Scotland in a World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday. The winner of the match, which was postponed in March due to the war, will face Wales for a place in the world tournament.
►Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia have signed an agreement to join Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine in the joint investigation team that will coordinate the investigation of Russian atrocities through the agency of the European Union Eurojust.
►Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports sets the stage for a “catastrophic scenario” of widespread shortages and price hikes across Africa, said Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union.
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2 Russian soldiers sentenced to prison for war crimes
A court in the city of Poltava in central Ukraine on Tuesday sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11 years and six months in prison for their role in bombing civilian areas near Kharkiv. This was the second war crimes trial since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov served in Russian artillery units that destroyed a school and other buildings in and around Dergachi, a village about 20 km northwest of Kharkiv, prosecutors said. The men, who watched the proceedings from a reinforced glass box, had pleaded guilty to charges of “violation of the laws and customs of war”.
In the first war crimes trial, Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin was sentenced last week to life in prison for fatally shooting a Ukrainian civilian.
Russian forces seized half of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last major cities under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region, as Moscow continued to make progress in its drive to control the Industrial Donbass. Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said on Tuesday that street fighting and artillery shelling threatened the lives of some 13,000 civilians remaining in the battered city that was once home to more than 100,000 people. More than 1,500 people in the city have died since the war began in February, he said.
“The city is basically being ruthlessly destroyed, block by block,” Striuk said.
Russian shelling on Sievierodonetsk caused a leak of poisonous nitric acid after a tank at a chemical plant was hit, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said. Haidai posted a photo of a huge pink cloud hanging over the city and urged residents not to leave their homes and wear gas masks or make improvised masks.
European Union leaders are trying to find a way around the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports that is preventing the export of 22 million tonnes of grain, but they recognize that alternatives to shipping would transport only a fraction of the product .
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after the EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday that the bloc was considering moving food by road and rail, which would transport only a fifth of exports Ukraine’s usual monthly.
“It is of course more tedious and more expensive, but you have to get that wheat out,” she said.
The war in Ukraine has caused a spike in the prices of some items that threatens to fuel a global food crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin is asking for sanctions relief in exchange for permission to ship Ukrainian grain.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence on charges he says were trumped up, said on Tuesday that new criminal charges could prolong his incarceration by 15 years.
Navalny said on Instagram that an investigator who visited him in prison told him that authorities were now investigating accusations of “creating an extremist group to stir up hatred against public officials and oligarchs” and trying to organize unauthorized gatherings.
Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s most vocal political enemy, was sentenced in March to nine years in prison for fraud and contempt of court following a year-long Kremlin crackdown on his supporters, d other opposition activists and independent journalists.
More than three months after the Russian invasion, a senior Ukrainian military official warned on Tuesday that the end of the brutal conflict that has left much of his country in ruins is not near. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, cited fierce battles for control of the breakaway eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk – and other regions as well.
“I think those people who said the war will end very soon, that we have already won, that we will celebrate in April, said a dangerous thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, the war will continue, and we have a lot to do to win. It’s very difficult for us at the front.”
Serbia, a staunch ally of Russia, could join the rest of Europe in adopting sanctions against Russia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, sworn in for his second five-year term on Tuesday, pledged to keep the Balkan country on the path to joining the European Union. Serbia is the only European nation that did not join Russia’s sanction for its invasion of Ukraine.
Vucic announced on Sunday that he had secured an “extremely favorable” three-year natural gas contract with Moscow. European energy sanctions have focused on oil.
“We will have to face new sanctions … which could harm us, so we will ask our European partners to help us,” Vucic said. He said that Serbia would not apply for NATO membership and would maintain its military neutrality. But he added that Serbia was “not politically neutral” because of its EU aspirations.
Contribute: The Associated Press