European officials have signaled that they could sanction Russia’s energy exports after images emerged of mass killings of civilians in Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, said in a statement Monday that the bloc was working as a “matter of urgency” on drawing up new sanctions against Russia. French President Macron said that he would support a total ban on Russian coal and oil exports to the European Union as soon as this week.
Speaking to a French broadcaster, Macron said that there were “very clear signs” war crimes had been committed in Bucha and that, “it’s pretty established that it’s the Russian army” who is responsible for them.
“We can’t let it slide. We must have sanctions that dissuade with what’s happened there [in Bucha], what’s happening at Mariupol,” Macron said.
Europe has imposed punishing economic sanctions on Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February. But oil and natural gas exports have so far been spared by the bloc — partly because of differences between member states that are heavily reliant on Russian energy and those wanting to move faster to strike at the heart of the Russian economy.
But a block on Russia’s gas exports would exacerbate soaring inflation in Europe’s economies, and could tip Germany — Russia’s biggest energy customer — and other countries into recession.
“In the case of deliveries of Russian gas stopping, the situation would be aggravated,” Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing said in a statement. “A substantial recession in Germany could be hardly avoided.”
Yet shocking scenes in Bucha over the weekend — a suburb of Kyiv that was until recently occupied by Russian forces — could persuade import-reliant countries to take the economic hit. The bodies of unarmed civilians were found strewn across roads, bound and shot. Russia has denied any involvement in the incident.
The stakes are high. The European Union imported nearly €100 billion ($110 billion) worth of Russian energy last year. Russia supplies about 40% of the bloc’s imports of natural gas, and about 27% and 46% of its imported oil and coal respectively.
EU leaders pledged to reduce consumption of Russian gas by 66% before the end of this year, and to break the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy by 2027.
Russian oil has already been banned by the United States and United Kingdom, and a wider de facto embargo has taken hold as banks, traders, shippers and insurance companies try to avoid falling foul of financial sanctions. The International Energy Agency says Russia could be forced to limit its production by 3 million barrels per day, starting this month, as it struggles to find buyers.
Some EU countries want the bloc to go further, and have been calling for a ban on Russian natural gas for weeks. One has just taken the step. Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said in a tweet on Sunday that “from now and so on, Lithuania won’t be consuming a cubic cm of toxi