EU foreign ministers are on Monday to discuss a sixth round of sanctions on Moscow for its war in Ukraine but the bloc remains divided over a ban on Russian gas and oil imports.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Kyiv on Friday that the EU was now engaged in “rolling sanctions” against Russia to increasingly punish President Vladimir Putin for his decision to invade his pro-Western neighbor.
“We are mobilizing our economic power to make Putin pay a very, very heavy price,” she said. “We have imposed five waves of unprecedented sanctions against Russia. And we are already preparing the next wave.”
Although the sanctions that would hurt Russia the most — an EU boycott of its oil and gas exports — are not on the table formally, European Union diplomats acknowledge there are discussions about them.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called for such EU embargoes.
The fifth round of sanctions, imposed since Friday, include a ban on Russian coal imports into the EU — an important first step towards a broader prohibition on more energy supplies.
However unanimity is required among the 27 EU nations for any sanctions to be imposed, and countries reliant on Russian gas — among them Germany, Italy, Austria and Hungary — are reluctant to add it to the list.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin has pocketed more than 35 billion euros ($38 billion) in gas, oil and coal sales to the EU, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The coal ban is expected to amputate around eight billion euros a year from that amount, according to the European Commission — a minor portion of the overall fossil fuel revenues.
But where the EU is more in agreement is on financing the supply of weapons to Ukraine.
More euros for arms
Several EU diplomats said another 500 million euros would soon be added to a “European Peace Facility” to fund such arms purchases for Ukraine, bringing the total available to 1.5 billion euros.
“I am sure we will put on the table another 500 million (euros) more to continue supporting you. We are ready to tailor these resources to your demands,” Borrell said on Friday as he accompanied von der Leyen in Kyiv.
“This from the military point of view is clear to us — we have to provide the kind of weapons that you need to continue to fight.”
Borrell also said the Ukrainians and Western allies believed the outcome of the war would be decided in coming days, in a battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region which neighbors Russia.
NATO, the US and the EU have said they believe Russian forces have pulled back from around Kyiv to regroup and launch a major assault to try to take the entire Donbas. Parts of that region closest to Russia have been controlled since 2014 by pro-Kremlin separatists armed by Moscow.
The perceived strategic goal is for Russia to create a “land bridge” running from its border across southeastern Ukraine, to link up to Crimea, which Russia occupied and then annexed seven years ago.
To counter that, Ukraine needs weapons with longer reach than it has currently, to attack Russian ships and warplanes.
Slovakia on Friday announced it had supplied Ukraine with a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile defence system, the S-300.
The prime minister of former EU member Britain, Boris Johnson, said during a visit to Kyiv on Saturday his country would supply new anti-ship missile systems as well as 120 armored vehicles.
During their meeting on April 11, the EU ministers gathering in Luxembourg are also due to meet the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan, who has opened war crimes investigations into atrocities that have happened in Ukraine.