Source: Evening Standard
Joe Biden has decided to ban Russian oil imports to America in a dramatic ratcheting up of the economic squeeze on Vladimir Putin’s regime, according to reports from the US.
The move follows pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to US and Western officials to cut off the imports, which had been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions put in place on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
Energy exports have kept a steady influx of cash flowing to Russia despite otherwise severe restrictions on its financial sector.
The US president was set to announce the move as soon as Tuesday, one source told the Associated Press.
Other media outlets had similar reports.
The White House said Mr. Biden would speak Tuesday morning to announce “actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine.”
The Kremlin has threatened to retaliate by cutting off gas supplies to Europe and other countries in the West, though this would deliver a major blow to the Russian economy.
It comes after Russia threatened to cut off gas supplies to the West by closing the Nord Stream 1 Pipeline via Germany.
Alexander Novak, Russia’s deputy prime minister, warned his Government could “impose an embargo” on gas supplies in retaliation for economic sanctions.
Germany last month confirmed it would ban the expensive Nord Stream 2 Gas pipeline in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has claimed the lives of over 1,000 civilians since February 24, according to the United Nations, with the true toll likely to be much higher.
Speaking to state media on Monday, Mr. Novak claimed that Russia has “every right” to take a “matching decision” and “impose an embargo on gas pumping through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline”.
However, he stressed that a decision on whether to do so had not yet been taken and the pipeline is currently operating “at full capacity”.
His warning comes as the US pushes western allies to consider a ban on Russian oil imports.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said earlier Washington was in “very active discussions” with countries in Europe over banning imports of Russian oil. Two White House officials briefed the Reuters news agency that President Biden was willing to move ahead without its European partners.
Energy minister Lord Callanan warned that a ban on Russian gas and oil imports was under “urgent review” as part of sanctions against the Kremlin.
The move would severely damage the Russian economy, which has already been devastated by sanctions.
Mr. Novak said a “rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market”, adding that the price of oil could rise to more than $300 a barrel.
Brent crude was at its highest price since 2008 on Monday after touching $139 per barrel, with the rise likely to put a further squeeze on households.
According to data from Eurostat, around a quarter of the European Union’s oil imports and around 46 percent of its gas came from Russia in the first part of last year.
The UK is less reliant on Russia for both but prices here largely mirror those in Europe.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has publicly argued that western allies should put “sustainable” pressure on Russia while minimizing the impact on households.
“All our steps are designed to hit Russia hard, and be sustainable over the long term,” he said in a statement.
“At the moment, Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way.”