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Clara Ferreira Marques and David Fickling

Europe’s Partial Russian Oil Ban Is Flawed, But Necessary

The deal is overdue progress, and a much-needed signal of intent — even if it makes troubling concessions.

Better than no sanctions at all.

Better than no sanctions at all.

Photographer: David Hecker/Getty Images

European Union leaders have finally agreed to ban most Russian oil imports, paving the way for a sixth package of sanctions aimed at eroding the Kremlin’s capacity to fund its brutal war in Ukraine. It’s an imperfect solution that comes late, makes multiple concessions that draw out timing and caves to Hungary’s demands for exemptions. Sanctioning gas, where infrastructure ties Russia far more tightly to European purchases, remains off the table. It’s a vital step forward nonetheless.

First, the flaws. The deal reached on Monday is embarrassingly late. Europe has for months expressed outrage over Kremlin forces’ actions while also effectively enabling the conflict through hefty payments for imported Russian oil and gas. According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, EU countries have paid Moscow 57 billion euros ($61 billion) for fossil fuels since the invasion — an untenable moral and diplomatic position that member states are only now starting to tackle. For gas, the plan is still to reduce demand and increase non-Russian supply, which the Commission optimistically hopes can pave the way to a dramatic reduction in imports this year, and eventual independence.