Ukraine: Bruno Le Maire wants to “convince our European partners to stop importing Russian oil”

The Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire. (POOL / TOBIAS SCHWARZ) “What has been the main source of foreign currency for several years for the power of Vladimir Putin? It’s not gas, it’s oil”, estimated Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of Economy, on the antenna of Europe 1 this Tuesday, April 19. Moscow is opening a new phase of its invasion of Ukraine, after failing to take the capital kyiv: Russia has launched a major offensive in the east of the country, according to President Volodymir Zelensky. In recent weeks, the Russian military campaign has refocused on the eastern region of Donbass, partially controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces since 2014. In this context, the Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire recalled the need “to stop imports of oil from Russia” to “hurt the financing of the war”, on the set of Europe 1 this Tuesday, April 19. “We have always said with Emmanuel Macron that we want a coal embargo – it’s done – and an embargo on Russian oil. (…) When you see what is happening in the Donbass, more than ever, it is necessary to stop imports of oil from Russia, the President of the Republic has been saying so for weeks,” he said. “This is what we are preparing, I do not hide it. We are trying to convince our European partners to stop importing oil from Russia. What has been the first source of foreign currency for several years for the power of Vladimir Putin It’s not gas, it’s oil,” said Bruno Le Maire. In 2021, Moscow supplied 30% of crude and 15% of petroleum products purchased by the EU. A supply on which certain European countries are particularly dependent. “The President of the Republic left no ambiguity on the subject, and we know very well that if we are not there, it is not because France does not want it, but because certain European partners still have hesitations. I hope that in the coming weeks we will succeed in convincing our European partners that we must stop importing oil from Russia”, hoped the minister. A possible halt in imports of black gold from Russia could take “months”, several European sources warned on Friday. “The adoption of measures on oil requires unwinding existing contracts, finding alternatives and avoiding their circumvention. This will not happen overnight. It will take at least several months,” said an official European involved in the discussions. The EU decided on April 8 to stop its coal purchases from Russia, an embargo which will come into force at the beginning of August, 120 days after the publication of the new sanctions package in the EU’s official journal. “The second phase of the war has begun” According to a senior US Defense Department official, Russia has increased its military presence in eastern and southern Ukraine by “eleven battalions” in one week, bringing to 76 total battalions in the country. For Andriï Yermak, President Zelensky’s chief of staff, it is now clear that “the second phase of the war has begun”. “Trust the armed forces of Ukraine,” he said on Telegram. “It’s hell. The offensive has begun, the one we’ve been talking about for weeks,” the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï, announced on Facebook. “There is fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, incessant fighting in other peaceful towns,” he said, acknowledging that Kreminna was “unfortunately under the control of orcs,” the pejorative nickname given to the Russian military. This city, which had around 18,000 inhabitants before the war, is located about fifty kilometers northeast of Kramatorsk, the Ukrainian capital of the Donbass coalfield. At least four civilians were killed in Russian shelling as they tried to flee Kreminna, Sergiï Gaïdaï continued. However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych assured that “the Russian occupiers had not yet conquered Kreminna” and that “intense street fighting” was taking place there. Serguiï Gaïdaï had shortly before urged the population to evacuate the Lugansk region. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk for her part asked Moscow on Monday to open humanitarian corridors in Berdyansk and Mariupol, in particular at the Azovstal metallurgical complex, where there are fighters but where “many Ukrainian civilians. “Your refusal to open these humanitarian corridors will serve, in the future, as elements for legal proceedings against all those involved in war crimes,” she said on Telegram.