US bans Russian oil imports over war in Ukraine

President Joe Biden has faced pressure from Republicans and Democrats to ban Russian fuel

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US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on imports of Russian oil in his administration's latest effort to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The ban will also be applied to Russian liquefied natural gas and coal.

“The United States is targeting the main artery of Russian economy,” Mr Biden said.

“We will not be part of subsidising [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war.”

The Biden administration has faced growing pressure from Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy to do more to combat Russian aggression.

While the US has imposed severe sanctions on Russia since it launched its assault on Ukraine last week, the Biden administration's hesitancy to ban oil imports has been a glaring omission.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress have also urged the White House impose bans on Russian oil and gas.

In enacting the ban, Washington will be acting in close consultation with its European allies, which are more dependent on Russian energy supplies.

The EU this week announced in would commit to decreasing its dependence on Russia for its energy needs.

“It's a day we remain united … in our purpose to keep pressure mounting on Putin and his war machine,” Mr Biden said.

The UK government announced in would phase out the import of Russian oil by the end of 2022, saying it would turn to “reliable partners”, including those in the Gulf, to secure further supplies.

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We will not be part of subsidising Putin’s war
US President Joe Biden

But in his remarks, Mr Biden said the ban would come at a cost for Americans.

“Defending freedom is going to cost,” he said.

Tuesday's announcement comes as US petrol prices reached a record high of $4.17 per gallon, the American Automobile Association reported.

Oil prices surged past $130 per barrel on Tuesday, the highest level since 2008.

Western energy companies — including BP, ExxonMobil and Shell — have already moved to cut ties with Russia and limit imports.

Banning Russian oil has created conflict for the president and his administration, which is already battling soaring inflation, as the ban is likely to increase prices at the pump.

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While soaring petrol prices could hurt Mr Biden and his Democratic party in the midterm elections in November, the ban has drawn popular support.

More than 70 per cent of Americans would support a ban on Russian oil even if it means higher petrol prices, a Quinnipiac poll showed.

And a bipartisan group of senators last week introduced a bill to ban Russian oil imports, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling Democratic colleagues on Sunday that the lower chamber is “currently exploring strong legislation that will further isolate Russia from the global economy".

“Ban it,” Ms Pelosi said when asked about the idea last week.

Members of Congress on Monday announced that they had reached a deal on a bill that would ban Russian oil imports and impose further sanctions on the country. The announcement was removed because of pushback from the White House as Mr Biden had already made his decision, The Associated Press reported.

Regardless, Ms Pelosi reportedly told her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday that the House of Representatives would press forward with a vote on the legislation.

Updated: March 09, 2022, 7:27 AM
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