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EU countries on Thursday approved new sanctions against Russia, including a bloc-wide embargo on coal imports, after evidence of torture and killings of civilians emerging from war zones outside the Ukraine capital, Kyiv.
The ban on coal imports against Russia’s lucrative energy industry is estimated to be worth €4 billion ($4.4bn) a year, said the EU presidency, held by France.
In the meantime, the bloc has started working on more sanctions, including on oil imports.
“The package is very substantial and extends sanctions against Russia to new sectors” and more oligarchs, the presidency said, mentioning officials linked to propaganda, military security and high technology.
The deal was given final approval in a meeting of EU ambassadors and will be enacted when published in the bloc's official journal, probably on Friday.
So far, banning natural gas has remained out of reach, but not because of lack of support from the European Parliament.
The legislature approved a resolution with a vote of 513-22 — with 19 abstentions — demanding “an immediate full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas".
But the move carried little more than moral weight, because is up to the member states to unanimously impose such bans.
And energy is key in Europe’s trade relations with Russia. EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has said that the 27-nation bloc is paying €1bn a day for energy provisions, accounting for more than €35bn since the war started.
Late on Thursday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that, if not gas, oil would be on the list soon.
“The next step we are looking intensively at the moment is oil, so to prepare to be able to phase out oil,” Ms von der Leyen said.
On Wednesday, the US announced sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and said it was toughening penalties against Russian banks in retaliation for “war crimes” in Ukraine.
The moves against Sberbank and Alfa Bank prohibit assets from touching the US financial system and bar Americans from doing business with those institutions.
The EU sanctions also included the freezing of assets of several Russian banks, an extension of an arms export ban covering contracts before 2014, and other export bans totalling about €10bn.
The nations also approved a further €5.5bn ban on imports and a ban on port access for Russian vessels.