EU targets Russian oil and banks as Moscow ally Belarus holds military drills
- EU proposes toughest sanctions yet against Russia
- Ukraine keeps close eye on Belarusian army drills
- Russia says NATO arms deliveries to Ukraine are target
- More evacuees leave by bus from Mariupol
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine, May 4 (Reuters) – The EU on Wednesday offered its toughest sanctions yet against Russia, including a gradual oil embargo, as Ukraine came under renewed heavy Russian bombardment and nervously watched large-scale military exercises in neighboring Belarus, a close ally of Moscow.
Almost 10 weeks into a war that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and destroyed towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine, Russia has also stepped up its attacks against targets in western Ukraine, in part to disrupt Western arms shipments.
A new bus convoy has begun evacuating more civilians from the devastated southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting of the war so far and where Moscow has said the remaining Ukrainian forces remained tightly pinned down.
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Mounting the strain on Russia’s already battered $1.8 trillion economy, the European Commission has proposed phasing out supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022. The price of Brent crude jumped 3% to over $108 a barrel after the news. .
The plan, if accepted by EU governments, would be a turning point for the world’s largest trading bloc, which remains dependent on Russian energy and must find alternative supplies. Hungary and Slovakia want to be exempt from the ban for the time being, sources said.
“(President Vladimir) Putin must pay a price, a high price, for his brutal aggression,” Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, to the applause of lawmakers. Read more
She also announced sanctions targeting Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank, two other lenders, three state broadcasters, and army officers and others accused of war crimes.
The EU has yet to target Russian natural gas, used to heat homes and generate electricity across the bloc.
Putin further raised the economic stakes for Western backers of kyiv on Tuesday by announcing his intention to block exports of vital raw materials. Read more
On the war front, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his military would view NATO transports carrying weapons to non-alliance Ukraine as targets to be targeted. destroy, the RIA news agency reported. NATO says individual member states send military supplies but not troops.
His comments came after the ministry said it had disabled six Ukrainian train stations used to supply Ukrainian forces with Western-made weapons in the east of the country. Reuters could not verify the claim and there was no immediate reaction from Kyiv.
The ministry also said it hit 40 Ukrainian military targets, including four depots storing ammunition and artillery weapons. Read more
Announcing the surprise military exercises, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said they posed no threat to its neighbors, but the Ukrainian border service said it could not rule out the possibility that Belarusian forces would join the Russian assault.
“Therefore, we are ready,” spokesman Andriy Demchenko said.
Some Russian forces entered Ukraine via Belarus when the invasion began on February 24, but Belarusian troops have yet to be involved in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to disarm and defend Ukraine. fascists.
kyiv and its Western supporters say the claim of fascism is an absurd pretext for Moscow to wage an unprovoked war of aggression that has driven five million Ukrainians to flee abroad.
The convoy leaving Mariupol, organized by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, was heading for the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. It was not scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
He did not say how many buses were in the convoy or whether other civilians had been evacuated from the sprawling Azovstal steelworks, where the city’s last defenders are resisting Russian forces that have occupied Mariupol.
The first evacuees from Azovstal arrived by bus in Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday after cowering for weeks in bunkers under the sprawling Soviet-era steelworks. Read more
“We had said goodbye to life. We thought no one knew we were there,” said 70-year-old Valentina Sytnykova, who said she took refuge in the factory for two months with her son and granddaughter. – 10 year old girl.
The Ukrainian General Staff said the Russian assault on Azovstal continues.
Russia now controls Mariupol, once a city of 400,000 but now largely reduced to smoldering rubble after weeks of siege and bombardment. The city is key to Moscow’s efforts to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea – vital for its grain and metal exports – and connect Russian-held territory to the south and east.
Moscow has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izium in a bid to capture the towns of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk in the Donbass, British intelligence said. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
The cities are in the eastern region of Donbass – Russia’s main target. Russian forces turned their heaviest firepower on eastern and southern Ukraine after failing to take kyiv, the capital, in the first weeks of the war.
But the mayor of Lviv, in western Ukraine, said on Tuesday evening that Russian missile strikes had damaged electricity and water networks in his city near the Polish border, through which supplies of Western weapons for the Ukrainian army.
Governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said two civilians had been killed and two injured in the past 24 hours, adding that Russian forces had shelled residential areas 34 times. Russia denies targeting civilians.
“There are no safe cities in the Luhansk region,” he said on the Telegram messaging service.
Ukraine remain defiant despite the relentless onslaught.
“Russia is struggling to advance and is suffering terrible losses. Hence the desperate missile terror across Ukraine. But we are not afraid and the world should not be afraid either,” the official said on Twitter. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
“No more sanctions against Russia. More heavy weapons for Ukraine. Russia’s missile terrorism must be punished.”
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Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Tom Balmforth in kyiv, Ron Popeski in Winnipeg, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Steve Holland in Troy, Alabama; Written by Gareth Jones; Editing by Philippa Fletcher
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