LVIV – The European Union is likely to agree to a ban on Russian oil imports “within days,” according to its largest member Germany, Moscow, which has said it has boosted its economic ties with China since it was cut off by the West over its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told world business leaders in Davos on Monday that sanctions against Russia should be increased to prevent other countries from using “brutal force” to achieve their goals.
Many of the 27 member states of the European Union, highly dependent on Russian power, have criticized Kiev for not moving fast enough to cut off supplies to the bloc.
Hungary is embroiled in demands for energy investment before agreeing to such sanctions, as EU states clash with pressure for speedy approval. The EU has offered up to 2 billion euros ($ 2.14 billion) in non-Russian supplies to Central and Eastern countries.
“We will make progress in a few days,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told broadcaster ZDF.
The European Commission and the United States are working in parallel on proposals to limit global oil prices, he said.
“It’s obviously an unusual measure, but it’s an unusual time,” he said.
Russia’s three-month-long invasion, the largest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 6.5 million people flee abroad, devastate entire cities and prompted unprecedented Western sanctions on Russia.
As another symbolic indication of Russia’s isolation, the US coffee chain Starbucks has become the latest Western brand to say it is leaving the country on Monday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the Kremlin will focus on developing relations with China because economic ties with the United States and Europe have been severed.
“If they (the West) want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, we will seriously consider whether we will need it,” he said in a statement, according to a transcript on the State Department’s website.
“Now that the West has taken a ‘dictatorial position’, our economic relations with China will grow even faster.”
The remarks came during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Asia, where he said he would be willing to use force to protect Taiwan against Chinese aggression – a remark that seems to extend the ambiguity of US policy toward self-governing islands.
Russia sent thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special operation” to disarm its neighbors and eradicate dangerous nationalists – a claim rejected by Kyiv and the West as a false pretext for land grabbing.
After capturing the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine last week after a month-long siege, Russian forces now control large parts of the east and south.
They are trying to encircle Ukrainian forces and completely occupy the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, which comprise the eastern Donbass region, where Moscow supports separatist forces.
A total of 12,500 Russians were trying to occupy Luhansk, the region’s governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a telegram. The city of Siviarodonetsk is being destroyed, but Ukraine has moved Russian troops south of Toshkivka, Gaidai added.
Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko told local television that shelling was taking place along the front line, hitting the coal-mining town of Avdivka 24 hours a day.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force Military Command said in a nightly update that Russian forces opened fire on 38 communities in Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday, killing seven and wounding six.
Reuters was not able to immediately verify the information.
Zelensky on Monday described Ukraine’s worst military casualties since a single attack in the war, saying 87 people had been killed last week when Russian forces hit a barracks at a training base in the north.
“Every time we tell our partners that we need modern anti-ballistic weapons, modern military aircraft, we are not simply requesting empty,” he said late Monday.
“These requests are the lives of many people who would not have been killed if we had not received the weapons we are requesting.”
Denmark’s commitment to send Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a launcher to Ukraine, the United States announced on Monday, is the first sign since Russia’s aggression that Kyiv will receive US-made weapons that will significantly expand its striking range.
Harpoons made by Boeing could be used to push the Russian navy away from Ukraine’s Black Sea port, so that exports of grain and other agricultural products could resume.
In the first of many war crimes trials since the attack, a Kiev court has sentenced a young Russian tank commander to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian.
Ukraine is investigating more than 13,000 Russian war crimes suspects, according to its prosecutor general’s website.
Russia denies targeting civilians or engaging in war crimes.
Ukraine is trying to secure a prisoner exchange for fighters surrendering in Mariupol. A Russian deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying that Moscow could negotiate a swap.
In a cemetery outside Mariupol, traversing long rows of fresh graves and temporary wooden crosses, Natalya Voloshina, who lost her 28-year-old son in the battle for the city, said there was no one left to pay tribute to the memory of many of Mariupol’s dead. .
“Who will bury them? Who will put a plaque?” He asked.
“They have no family.” (1 = 0.9363 euros)
(Written by Alexander Kozukhar of Lviv, Pavel Polityuk of Kiev, and Natalia Genetas, and Costas Pitas of Mariupol, by reporters from Reuters; edited by Rosalba O’Brien and Michael Perry)