‘Isolate Russia From the World’ Mission: EU Mulls More Sanctions on Moscow Accused of Alleged War Crimes

Written by | Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

An increasing number of European Union leaders have asked Brussels to push forward a fifth package of sanctions against Moscow following the atrocities and “unbearable scenes” in the destroyed Ukrainian town of Bucha. Global outrage continues to mount over the reports of killings of civilians in the town near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv by Russian forces, which Russia has denied. But a set of satellite images of a Bucha street appear to show several bodies in or just off the road where Ukraine officials have accused the Russians of killing civilians. US President Joe Biden has gone so far as to call his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and suggested holding a “war crimes trial”. The EU will likely adopt new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday (6 April), France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune says. “The new sanctions will probably be adopted tomorrow”, he told the press, adding the EU should also quickly act on gas and coal imports from Russia.
But several sources from the capitals have confirmed that a trade ban – as Warsaw recently requested – is now on the radar while EU leaders are still divided over gas imports. At the recent summit, EU leaders added for the first time in the conclusions a reference to “war crimes” committed by Moscow in Ukraine, preparing the ground for a legal case against Russian leaders. In Warsaw, politicians are also looking at a Nuremberg-style tribunal for Russian politicians involved in the Ukraine invasion. At that summit, though, EU leaders did not decide on a fifth package of sanctions saying such a package would be activated if Russia crossed the red line of atrocities. “This red line has now been crossed, and therefore the mission ‘Isolate Russia from the world’ mission is launched”, an EU source close to the matter told the media.
The sanctions issued so far are “clearly not [working]”, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said on Monday (4 April). “If sanctions don’t bite, if they aren’t forcing a rethink, then they aren’t working”, he said. Poland recently called for a total ban on trade with Russia, which was opposed by Prague who said it was not a realistic option. French President Emmanuel Macron said the events in Bucha justify imposing “a new set of sanctions” in the next few days, particularly on Russian coal and oil. As Europe relies on Russia for about 25% of its oil, 45% of its coal and 40% of its gas, especially an embargo on the latter remains the hot potato. For example, Austrian Finance Minister Magnus Brunner stressed that sanctions on Russian energy imports would hurt Europe more than Russia. “Austria is not in favour of more sanctions concerning gas” as Europe would be “very much dependent on Russian gas.” On the other hand, several representatives of the Italian government have agreed with the proposal of stopping gas and oil imports from Moscow. “At this time, it is really difficult to justify and tolerate the energy reliance on Russia,” Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani admitted on Sunday (3 April).

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