Prime minister: No EU sanctions on Russian oil, gas on table right now

Estonia's prime minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).
Estonia's prime minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: Government Office

No plans are currently in place to impose European Union-level sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Friday. Kallas had been attending a European Council meeting, which had also focused on natural gas and electricity prices as a whole.

Speaking to ERR's Brussels correspondent Joosep Värk, Kallas said while: "We have made four packages of very harsh sanctions, and they have been enforced quickly," no further sanctions were on the table, at a time when Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its fifth week.

"There is no feeling that [new sanctions] should be imposed immediately. The assumption was that we should start looking at how the current sanctions will pan out," she added.

The European Council meeting in Brussels, which ended late on Friday evening, discussed the joint purchase of gas and bringing the price of electricity under control.

Kallas, who as a former MEP is relatively well-versed in the EU corridors of power, said that the major question, for her, remains whether, when and how to sanction Russian oil and gas exports.

The EU has not as yet halted the in-flow of either, though the NordStream 2 pipeline work has been halted.

One method Kallas suggested, one which she had made on Thursday also, was setting up an escrow account for Russian gas supply payments, whose funds could be diverted away from Russia where needed.

Kallas said: "My suggestion is that this can be done so one part of the gas revenue which should be paid to Russia is paid into a separate fund, aimed at rebuilding Ukraine. The message would then be clear to Russia: For every building you bomb, you have to pay for it and we will take that money; we will pay you less (for gas)."

As to the likelihood of the plan being adopted by the EU, Kallas said: "Colleagues need a little more time to get used to the idea, but there are more and more arguments coming in [in its favor] /.../ It seemed that a many people liked this proposal, which would kill two birds with one stone."*

The meeting mainly focused on preparations for next winter, following the preceding winter's soaring energy costs. Fear of fluctuations and another winter like the last one in terms of energy prices has made many EU member states' leaders leery of sanctioning Russian fossil fuels – i.e. oil and gas, too quickly.

Spain has in the recent past called for a cap on natural gas prices, while Germany and the Netherlands oppose such a move, arguing that gas-dependent companies should be listened to.

Reuters reported earlier in the week that the union was divided on the issue of oil and gas sanctions for Russia, and is looking at other possible options.

The U.S. banned Russian oil imports earlier on this month. The U.S. is, however, far less dependent on Russia than the EU – last year Russian oil imports represented 8 percent of the total, AP reports, while the country does not import any natural gas from Russia.

Russia has in the past proposed building oil, gas and electricity connections between its far east and Alaska.

*Or in Estonian, get two flies with one blow ("Saaks kaks kärbest ühe hoobiga").


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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