EU leaders have agreed an embargo on Russian oil brought in by sea, aiming to cut “a huge source of financing for its war machine”.
The latest measure was made at a summit focusing on helping Ukraine, with a long-delayed raft of sanctions that was blocked by Hungary.
The embargo covers only Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline.
In a post on Twitter, EU Council President Charles Michel said the agreement covers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia, “cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war.”
Mr Michel added that the package also includes “de-swifting the largest Russian bank Sberbank, banning 3 more Russian state-owned broadcasters, and sanctioning individuals responsible for war crimes”.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also addressed the bloc’s 27 leaders in Brussels by video in a 10 minute-message. He has repeatedly demanded that the EU target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and deprive Moscow of billions of dollars each day in supply payments.
Mr Zelensky reminded leaders of the atrocities going on in his country, including the death of civilians and children, telling them “it is crucial that sanctions are adopted as soon as possible”, according to a senior EU diplomat who spoke to the Associated Press.
“Why are you dependent on Russia … Why can Russia still earn almost a billion euros a day by selling energy?” he said in an address to EU leaders.
The EU had already imposed five previous rounds of sanctions on Russia over its war. It has targeted more than 1,000 people, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and top government officials, as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal sector and more.
But the sixth package of measures announced on May 4 had been held up by concerns over oil supplies.
The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and Ukraine says those energy imports are funding Russia’s war on its neighbour.
Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, had made clear he could support the new sanctions only if his country’s oil supply security was guaranteed.
Meanwhile, in his nightly address, Mr Zelensky said the Donbas situation “remains extremely difficult” and said the Russian army was “trying to gather a superior force to put more and more pressure on our defenders.”
“The Russian army has now gathered there the maximum combat power,” he said of Donbas as a whole.