French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday called on the EU to prioritize a Russian oil embargo rather than a ban on gas, while acknowledging that not all the bloc’s countries were on board with the move.
“We are trying to convince our European partners to stop importing oil from Russia,” Le Maire told French radio Europe 1. “What has been the primary source of currency for [Russian President] Vladimir Putin for several years? It is not gas. It is oil.”
The comments came as Russia launched a renewed offensive in Ukraine on Monday, in what Kyiv says is part of a plan to seize the entirety of the country’s eastern Donbas region.
Le Maire said the renewed attacks have increased the urgency of weaning Europe off its dependency on Russian energy, while admitting some EU countries, which he did not name, were not ready to do so.
“We know very well that if we are not there today, it is not because France does not want it, it is because some European partners are still hesitant,” Le Maire said, referring to an EU ban on Russian oil.
Western leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council chief Charles Michel, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania and Canada are expected to hold a videoconference call this afternoon to discuss the situation in Ukraine.