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More Western sanctions to hit Russia after Bucha killings

Russia Ukraine War EU
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of March 24-25 2022, including the latest developments of the war against Ukraine and the EU sanctions against Russia, Wednesday, April 6, 2022 in Strasbourg, eastern France.
AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union were set Wednesday to impose new punishing sanctions targeting Russia, including a ban on all new investment in the country and an EU embargo on coal, after evidence of torture and killings emerged in recent days from a town outside of Kyiv.

Videos and images of bodies in the streets of Bucha after it was recaptured from Russian forces have unleashed a wave of indignation among Western allies, who have drawn up new sanctions as a response.

The European Commission’s proposed ban on coal imports would be the first EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said energy was key to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war coffers.

“A billion euro is what we pay Putin every day for the energy he provides us since the beginning of the war. We have given him 35 billion euro. Compare that to the one billion that we have given to the Ukraine in arms and weapons,” Borrell said.

After several European countries announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats, the European Commission proposed a fifth package of sanctions including a ban on coal imports that could be adopted as soon as Wednesday once unanimously approved by the 27-nation bloc’s ambassadors.

The United States and Western allies plan to impose a ban on all new investment in Russia. Among the other measures being taken against Russia are greater sanctions on its financial institutions and state-owned enterprises, and sanctions on government officials and their family members, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Separately, the Treasury Department moved Tuesday to block any Russian government debt payments with U.S. dollars from accounts at U.S. financial institutions, making it harder for Russia to meet its financial obligations.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the coal ban is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year and that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.

She didn’t mention natural gas, with consensus among the 27 EU countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes difficult to secure amid opposition from gas-dependent members like Germany, the bloc’s largest economy.

But European Council President Charles Michel said the bloc should keep up the pressure on the Kremlin, suggesting that an embargo on gas imports should also be required at some point in the future.

“The new package includes a ban on coal imports,” Michel said on Wednesday. “I think that measures on oil, and even gas, will also be needed, sooner or later.”

The new package of measures proposed by the commission also includes sanctions on more individuals and four key Russian banks, among them VTB, the second-largest Russian bank. The bloc also would ban Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from EU ports.

Further targeted export bans, worth 10 billion euros, in sectors covering quantum computers, advanced semiconductors, sensitive machinery and transportation equipment also were proposed.

“I appreciate the strengthening of the 5th EU sanctions package: bans on Russian coal, vessels accessing EU ports, and road transport operators,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “But it will take a gas/oil embargo and de-SWIFTing of all Russian banks to stop Putin. Difficult times require difficult decisions.”

Western allies have already cut out several Russian banks of the SWIFT financial messaging system, which daily moves countless billions of dollars around more than 11,000 banks and other financial institutions around the world.

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