Brussels prepares ban on Russian coal imports and transport companies

Brussels said it was ready to launch a new package of sanctions against Russia that would include a ban on coal imports from the country, a blockade on transactions with four of its lenders and the closure of its ports to Russian ships.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said she will also propose to exclude Russian and Belarusian road transport companies from the EU. “This ban will drastically limit Russian industry’s ability to obtain essential goods,” she said.

The new penalties will be discussed by EU ambassadors this week in a bid to reach a unanimous agreement among the 27 member states.

The pressure for the new sanctions has increased according to claims by the Russian armed forces atrocities committed against civilians in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Russia has dismissed the claims as fake.

Von der Leyen said the penalties would include a “total transaction ban” on four Russian banks, including VTB, adding that they are now “completely cut off from the markets”.

Other measures in the sanctions package – the EU’s fifth since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 – include targeted export bans worth €10 billion in areas such as quantum computers and advanced semiconductors. There will also be specific new bans worth €5.5 billion on products such as wood, cement, seafood and spirits.

The package follows growing calls for the EU to do so directly target the Russian energy sectorgiven its contribution to the country’s economy and public revenues.

Among the ideas also being discussed are restrictions on oil imports, although these are unlikely to be included in this week’s sanctions package.

The majority of Russian exports to the EU are hydrocarbons, Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice-president of the commission, said separately after a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

“If we really want to affect Russia’s economy, that’s where we need to look, and that’s what the discussions on this fifth package are about,” he said.

Bruno Le Maire, finance minister of France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, confirmed that member states were ready to involve the broader energy sector in sanctions within a timetable to be determined.

“In the face of Russian aggression, we need to be more united than ever – and all member states reiterated their willingness to expand import restrictions and step up efforts against Russia, and we discussed expanding the list of individuals and companies under sanctions,” he said he.

Work on a possible oil ban includes considering a phased ban on imports combined with a release of strategic oil reserves.

Other options could be levying tariffs on Russian oil or directing some payments to an escrow account used to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction. Brussels prepares ban on Russian coal imports and transport companies

Adam Bradshaw

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