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US, European Allies Vow Further Sanctions On Russia But Shy Away From Banning Oil Imports

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(RFE/RL) — The leaders of the United States, France, Germany, and Britain have vowed to further punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the White House said on March 7.

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But a ban on the import of Russian oil did not appear imminent despite mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers to cut off the source of revenue for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.

U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a videoconference call on March 7 and “affirmed their determination to continue raising the costs on Russia for its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

But the statement did not mention the prospect of a ban on Russian oil and gas imports, which would be especially painful for Germany. Scholz said before the call that Russian energy imports were “essential” to Europeans’ daily lives, cautioning against banning Russian oil and gas as it could put Europe’s energy security at risk.

Biden has said “nothing is off the table” when asked if oil could be the next target, but White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that while discussions are ongoing, Biden has not made a decision.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak warned that a ban on Russian oil imports would have “catastrophic” consequences for the global market.

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“The surge in prices will be unpredictable — more than $300 per barrel, if not more,” Novak said, according to TASS.

Novak added that it would be “impossible” to quickly replace Russian oil on the European market.

“It will take more than one year and it will be much more expensive for European consumers,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) said in a letter to her colleagues on March 6 that “the House is currently exploring strong legislation” to further isolate Russia because of its attack on Ukraine. That could include a ban on imports of Russian oil and energy products, she said.

Reports also said U.S. officials may be considering easing sanctions against Venezuela, which could free up more crude oil and ease concerns about reduced supplies from Russia.

Oil prices were already high before Russia’s attack on Ukraine. They have soared recently on worries that the invasion will upend already tight supplies.

Russia is one of the world’s largest energy producers, and the United States last year imported more than 20 million barrels of crude and refined products a month on average from Russia. That is about 8 percent of U.S. liquid fuel imports, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Stocks in Europe and the United States tumbled over the discussions about a possible ban on oil imports from Russia.

The losses came amid rising worries about inflation and potential additional sanctions against Russia following continued escalation of the war in Ukraine.

Stocks in the financial, travel, and automobile sectors suffered losses across Europe as major indices declined, while mining and energy stocks surged higher.

Major indices in Europe and on Wall Street fell after the price of a barrel of U.S. oil hit $130 before dropping to about $120 per barrel in trading on March 7.

Brent Crude, the international standard, was up 4 percent at $122.88 per barrel after topping $139 in earlier trading.

RFE RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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