Strasbourg, France, Apr 6 (EFE).- The European Union’s chief diplomat on Wednesday urged the bloc to drastically reduce its energy reliance on Russia.
The EU had delivered 1 billion euros in aid to Ukraine since the war began in late February but it had also purchased 35 billion euros-worth of energy from Moscow during the same period, Josep Borrell said.
“We have given Ukraine 1 billion euros, which may seem like a lot, but 1 billion euros is what we pay (Russian President Vladimir) Putin every day for the energy he provides us,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said during a European parliamentary session. “Since the beginning of the war, we have given him 35 billion euros.”
Borrell underlined the need to reduce energy dependence on Russia a day after the bloc proposed further sanctions against the Kremlin as allegations of war crimes in Ukraine surfaced.
European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday the EU was mulling a ban on coal imports as part of a fifth package of sanctions member states are yet to approve.
“We have to reduce energy dependence,” said Borrell. “Our energy autonomy hinges on the development of renewable energies, and climate change and geopolitics actually go hand in hand for the first time.”
European Council president Charles Michel echoed Borrell’s words, saying the EU would have to address the possibility of slapping sanctions on Russian oil and gas “sooner or later.”
“We must do everything to make these atrocities stop. We are toughening our sanctions to keep and exercise maximum pressure on the Kremlin,” Michel told EU lawmakers.
Michel also addressed Russian soldiers on the frontlines: “If you want no part in killing your Ukrainian brothers and sisters (…) drop your arms, stop fighting, leave the battlefield.”
The Council president also floated the “valuable idea” of offering EU asylum to Russian soldiers who desert the army.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said Wednesday Moscow would respond to any further EU sanctions.
“We will certainly take retaliatory measures, we are working on corresponding measures in order to protect our legitimate interests in the economic field and other areas,” the diplomat said, according to Tass news agency.
The latest sanctions could be approved by Thursday, EU sources said.
In addition to slashing coal imports, the proposed sanctions include a ban on transactions with four Russian banks and an embargo on some technology products, timber, seafood and alcohol exports to Russia. EFE