EU readying new Russia sanctions, may retaliate over rouble payments for gas
Sources in the EU told Reuters that the European Commission is preparing new sanctions against Russia over Russia’s invasion Ukraine. The magnitude of these new measures will depend on Moscow’s stance regarding gas payments in roubles.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stated that he would like “unfriendly” countries (including EU states) to pay their gas bills using roubles. This request was rejected by Western nations.
Two sources claimed that the new EU sanctions package could be available as soon as next week.
They said that the executive Commission is currently consulting with EU governments to develop a “compliance program”. This would implement the agreement reached by European leaders at a summit last Thursday about making sure existing sanctions are not bypassed, particularly those targeting blacklisted persons.
Officials repeatedly stated that sanctions against oligarchs can be circumvented by family members, cryptocurrencies and trusts in offshore jurisdictions.
Other EU sanctions are more difficult, if possible, to avoid. The EU has also imposed other sanctions, including the freezing of Russian assets, exclusion of Russian banks of the SWIFT banking system and a ban on EU companies exporting high tech products to Russia.
Although the final proposal is still being discussed, sources indicated that much more severe sanctions could be included to the new package if Putin insists on rouble payments for gas supply. The EU imports 40% of its gas from Russia.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin stated that payments in rubles would be made gradually and not after the March 31 deadline set by Putin.
Sources within the EU said that the EU’s possible reaction would depend on Moscow’s timing and details regarding gas payments.
A representative of the euro zone told Reuters that finance ministers from the euro zone were likely to discuss Monday how to retaliate if Putin continues with his threats on rouble payments.
According to a fifth EU source, if Putin was true to his statements on rouble payments it could lead Russia to effectively ban its natural gas exports.
Because of Russia’s dependence on the EU, it has not yet banned any Russian fossil fuel imports.
A ban on coal was only included in a list that could be sanctioned earlier this year. However, it was not added to the sanctions list because Germany struck it down.