Brussels wants an EU-wide ban on Russian coal imports

Brussels has proposed an EU-wide ban on imports of Russian coal worth €4 billion per year.

The measure comes in response to the alleged indiscriminate killings in Bucha, a suburb northwest of Kyiv. The images of the brutal attacks have fuelled calls for a total embargo on Russian energy, the Kremlin’s main source of revenue, even if some member states remain reluctant to take such a drastic step.

“This will cut another important revenue source for Russia,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday afternoon.

Coal represents a small share of the €99 billion that the bloc spent on Russian mineral fuels in 2021.

The new package of EU sanctions, the fifth in total, includes a transaction ban on four “key” Russian banks that take up 23% of Russia’s banking market. VTB, the second largest in the country, is one of those targeted, after being disconnected from the SWIFT system in early March.

But Sberbank and Gazprombank, Russia’s first and third largest financial institutions, will be spared. The two banks handle most energy-related payments.

The Commission has also proposed a set of new export bans worth €10 billion to hit sectors in which Russia is considered “vulnerable,” such as quantum computers, semiconductors and sensitive machinery. At the same time, new import bans worth €5.5 billion will target wood, cement, seafood and liquor.

The executive wants to prohibit Russian vessels from entering EU ports, but with exemptions for food products, humanitarian aid and energy.

Additionally, the Commission aims to expel Russian companies from public procurement schemes across the EU and cut all financial support to Russian public authorities.

“European tax money should not go to Russia in whatever shape or form,” said von der Leyen.

The new measures require the approval of all 27 member states by unanimity. EU ambassador are expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the Commission’s proposals and possibly green light them.

Von der Leyen added her team is working on “additional sanctions, including on oil imports”. A previous attempt to introduce an oil ban failed to gather the necessary support.

During the announcement on Tuesday, President von der Leyen made no mention of gas, a profitable Russian export on which many EU countries depend heavily to generate energy.

The bloc has been accused of funding Moscow’s war machine through the continued purchases of fossil fuels. The US and the UK, which are less reliant on Russian energy, have already announced plans to completely phase out imports.

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