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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

European Union leaders inch toward endorsing Russian oil embargo

Daniel, 16, training with members of a volunteer territorial defense group at a shelter in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday.

By Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Dan Bilefsky

European Union leaders were poised to endorse an embargo on Russian oil at a summit in Brussels on Monday following weeks of fraught negotiations, paving the way for Europe’s most far-reaching effort yet to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

As the EU inched toward a deal, the bloc sought to placate Hungary and its mercurial prime minister, Viktor Orban, a sometime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has been blocking the measure. His country would be given an indefinite exemption.

The need to find a compromise with Hungary underlined the fragility of European unity when the 27-member EU is faced with even a single obstructionist member. If approved, the move would mark a critical moment in the bloc’s support for Ukraine, reflecting the hardening of Western opposition to Putin.

But it would come at a heavy economic cost for Europe, which depends on Russian fossil fuels, a key source of revenue that has allowed Moscow to build up its military. The EU gets about 27% of its crude oil imports from Russia and a higher share of its oil products, paying billions of dollars a month.

The measure would ban all Russian oil transported to the EU by tankers and permit crude arriving by pipeline. That would still outright ban two-thirds of all oil imported into the EU from Russia, based on the draft agreement leaders were set to adopt Monday.

In other developments:

— Russian forces are now advancing from two sides on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk as Putin seeks to extend Russia’s territory in a part of the eastern Donbas region where it already holds substantial ground.

— Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, a 32-year-old French journalist, was killed Monday in eastern Ukraine, according to French and Ukrainian authorities. At least seven journalists have been killed and at least nine have been injured in Ukraine since Russia invaded Feb. 24, Reporters Without Borders said last week.

— A new U.S. ambassador has arrived in Ukraine after a vacancy in the post of three years.

— President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was scheduled to address European leaders by video link Tuesday. On Sunday, he sought to build morale among his fighters by making a rare journey outside Kyiv to the country’s northeast, near Kharkiv, which is still under shelling.

— Threats by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to block NATO membership for Finland and Sweden are a reminder of a long-festering problem for the alliance, whose 30 members must act by consensus.

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