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Biden Bans Russian Oil Imports; US Intelligence Warns Putin May Escalate Attack On Ukraine

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(RFE/RL) — In announcing a U.S. ban on Russian oil imports, President Joe Biden has called it a “powerful blow” to Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s war,” and warned Americans that “defending freedom is going to cost.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appealed several times to the West to stop importing energy supplies from Russia, Moscow’s main source of revenue.

About 8 percent of oil imports by the United States come from Russia, it does not import any Russian natural gas. Biden had earlier resisted targeting energy with sanctions, saying he did not want to hurt U.S. consumers with a move that would likely trigger higher fuel costs.

It is unclear if the European Union would take a similar move given it is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies. About one-third of Europe’s natural gas consumption is from Russian supplies.

Earlier on March 8, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned that sanctions and setbacks on the battlefield were unlikely to prompt Putin to change course in Ukraine, and could even spur him to ratchet up his offensive.

Speaking at a hearing on global security threats at the U.S. House of Representatives on March 8, Haines said the escalating costs of the war in Ukraine, which has likely caused thousands of Russian casualties, may agitate Putin and change his outlook on what could be considered a victory.

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“Our analysts assess that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate,” Haines said.

Haines said the United States believes Moscow underestimated Ukraine’s ability to fend off an attack, and that it remains unclear as to whether Putin seeks to take control over Ukraine as a whole, for which he would need to allocate more resources, or try to carve out smaller areas.

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