Ukraine war: EU set to agree new sanctions on Russian oil sales

Detail yet to be finalised but latest measures could have impact on prices here, says Ryan

The European Commission is preparing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia that includes a possible embargo on buying Russian oil.

It comes after a major shift on Monday by Germany, Russia's biggest energy customer, which said it was prepared to back an immediate EU embargo on Russian oil.

Moscow has warned it will respond in kind and last week its gas exporter Gazprom cut off supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for refusing to pay in roubles, with gas prices soaring on fears more states could be hit.

However, Greece and Bulgaria said on Tuesday a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility to be built off the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis would help create a new gas route for Europe and cut reliance on Russian gas.

Kyiv says Russia's energy exports to Europe are funding the Kremlin war effort with millions of euro every day. "This package should include clear steps to block Russia's revenues from energy resources," Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said on Tuesday the European sanctions were likely to be agreed later this week but the nature of those sanctions was not decided.

Mr Ryan told Newstalk Breakfast Russian president Vladimir Putin was using energy as a weapon, and said: "He is looking to divide and conquer."

The Minister for the Environment said there would be a doubling-down on efforts to switch reliance on oil and gas, and co-operation on switching to renewables so that countries did not rely on Russia.

He said while Ireland was not reliant on Russian oil or gas, an increase in prices would have an impact.

Exemptions

Mr Ryan acknowledged that some countries such as Hungary were in difficult circumstances as they depended on Russian crude oil.

He said there would have to be measures to transfer and share oil in some cases, adding: “We have to ensure that sanctions don’t damage Europe more than Russia.”

Mr Ryan said he was hopeful that a Europe-wide recession could be avoided, but “if the gas is switched off”, some economies would suffer.

Slovakia said on Tuesday it would seek an exemption from any embargo on oil.

Two European Union officials said on Monday the EU executive may spare Slovakia and Hungary from the embargo, mindful of the two countries' dependence on Russian crude.

Slovakia gets nearly all of its imported crude from Russia, and the country has said it had reserves for 120 days.

The Slovakian economic ministry said processing of different types of oil was not immediately possible and a switch of technology was difficult financially and time-consuming.

Greek gas facility

At an event on Tuesday to mark the start of implementing the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) in Alexandroupolis, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Our countries all together are ready to assume a new crucial role in Europe’s new energy map.

“Recent blackmails by Moscow over natural gas make this co-operation not only necessary but urgent.”

European Council president Charles Michel and the leaders of Bulgaria, Serbia and North Macedonia also attended the ceremony.

Greece has been supplying Bulgaria with gas since it was cut off by Russia.

“The economic blackmail of the Kremlin against my country and the European Union will not succeed, because we will oppose it and today’s event is a proof of that,” Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov said.

The new FSRU, which will be anchored about 18km off Alexandroupolis port and carry gas to the shore via a 28km-long pipeline, is expected to start operations at the end of 2023.

It will be able to regasify 5.5 billion cubic metres of LNG annually and store 153,500 cubic metres.

Greece has one LNG terminal off Athens. With the new Alexandroupolis terminal and other projects in the pipeline, it could triple its regasification capacity by the end of 2023, Mr Mitsotakis said. – Additional reporting Reuters