War in Ukraine: EU increases sanctions against Russia and prepares for a difficult winter

The European Commission proposed on Friday to ban gold purchases from Russia to bring EU sanctions in line with those of its G7 partners. The head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell, will propose for his part to register new Russian personalities on the EU blacklist.

“Moscow must continue to pay a high price for its aggression,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, after transmitting the new measures to the Twenty-seven.

Foreign ministers will have a first discussion on these sanctions on Monday in Brussels, but a decision is not expected during their meeting, a senior European official said.

The largest buyer of Russian gold is the United Kingdom with 290 tons in 2020 for an amount of 16.9 billion dollars, according to indications from Russian customs.

But the EU’s decision will not be symbolic, as it “will cut off another funding tap for Putin’s war in Ukraine,” the senior EU official explained.

Ministers must also release a fifth installment of 500 million euros from the “European Fund for Peace” to finance military equipment and weapons supplied to Ukraine, according to European diplomats.

Several Member States still have to obtain the approval of their parliaments to grant financing from this fund created outside the European budget. Unanimity is required.

The EU will thus have released 2,500 million euros of the 5,700 million allocated to this facility since the beginning of the conflict.

“Holding Winter”

The war “will last” and we must “prepare to dispense with Russian gas,” French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Thursday.

“Ukraine may lose the war,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned in a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.

“Il est donc important de lui fournir un substantiel sur une longue durée. Cela a prix, mais si nous laissons faire, le recours à la force par la Russie sera justifié et l’Europe sera more vulnerable”, at- he explains. .

Europeans must launch a “war economy” to deal with this crisis, argued Emmanuel Macron. Neither NATO nor the EU wants to get involved in the conflict unleashed by Russia, but President Vladimir Putin’s threats are being taken seriously, a European official said.

The European Union will increase its production capacity for war material and replenish its depleted stocks due to its shipments to Ukraine.

The Commission plans to present on Tuesday an instrument with a budget of 500 million euros to “strengthen European defense industrial capabilities through joint purchases.”

The EU executive will also present an emergency plan to reduce energy demand in anticipation of a possible interruption in Russian gas supplies. Restrictions are considered if necessary and these will need to be coordinated.

All these measures contribute to the war economy, explained a European official.

The EU annually buys 163 billion m3 of gas from Russia, a third of which passes through the Nord Stream pipeline. The objective of the plan is to save between 25,000 and 60,000 million m3 of gas during the winter period.

“We have to hold out in winter,” the European official said. “Sanctions are going to hit Russia hard in 2023, but right now Putin is on the run and he thinks the EU is going to burn,” he said.

“Public support in the EU is holding for now, but there is a growing feeling that the Europeans are paying for the sanctions,” he acknowledged.

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