EU to target Bucha perpetrators in new sanctions package

Fresh sanctions to phase out Russian oil imports and bar Sberbank from Swift system

Individuals believed to have committed war crimes in the town of Bucha in Ukraine and those responsible for the siege of Mariupol are set to be named in a new sanctions list under preparation by the European Union.

In addition, Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, is to be barred from the Swift international payments system, three Russian state-owned broadcasters will be banned from broadcasting in the EU and oil imports will be phased out under the proposals laid out by the European Commission.

"We are listing high-ranking military officers and other individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol," commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

“This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: we know who you are, and you will be held accountable.”

Those named will be added to a list of 1,093 individuals who have been slapped with asset freezes and travel bans by the EU over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

The announcement comes a week after Ukraine's chief prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, named and filed charges against 10 Russian soldiers who were allegedly involved in abuses during the month-long occupation of Bucha by Russia's 64th Motor Rifle Brigade.

Mass grave

The streets of the Kyiv suburb were discovered to be littered with the bodies of civilians when it was retaken from Russian forces a month ago, and international forensic experts travelled to the scene to collect evidence of apparent atrocities as bodies were excavated from a mass grave.

People who managed to escape the ongoing siege of the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol have told of having to bury family members in makeshift graves after Russian forces surrounded the city, cutting off food, water and electricity supplies while subjecting residents to constant bombardment. The city’s mayor has warned of a civilian death toll surpassing 20,000.

As had been widely anticipated, Dr von der Leyen proposed that imports of Russian oil would be “phased out”, with a ban on crude oil coming into force within six months and on refined oil products by the end of the year, allowing highly-dependent EU countries to find alternative sources of the fuels while undermining Moscow’s ability to finance its war.

This approach was intended to cause the least “collateral damage” to EU economies, the commission chief said, while acknowledging it would “not be easy”.

Unlike some EU countries, Ireland is not reliant on oil and gas supplies from Russia. However, the upheaval and uncertainty since the outbreak of the war have contributed to high energy prices internationally, and all eyes will now be on Gazprom to see if the Russian energy giant cuts off the gas supply to more countries in addition to Bulgaria and Poland, which would drive more turbulence and potentially damage the EU's economy as a whole.

Barred

Under the sanctions, EU “accountants, consultants and spin doctors” would be barred from providing services to Russian clients, with similar measures expected from Britain.

Sberbank and two other banks will be barred from the crucial Swift payments system, while three Russian state-owned broadcasters would be barred from distributing content over any media, additional to a similar sanction on Russia Today and Sputnik.

Dr von der Leyen argued that along with the United States, the EU should be ready to financially support the Ukrainian state to help it to continue to provide services and basic functions after the Russian invasion delivered a blow to its economy estimated to cut GDP by up to 50 per cent.

The new sanctions package, which is the sixth imposed by the EU on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, is expected to be approved by member states and formally adopted this week.