‘Be bolder!’ Ukraine warns EU ‘time is of the essence’ as bloc goes soft on sanctions

Europe ‘too dependent’ on Russian gas says von der Leyen

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The EU’s REPowerEU, published on Wednesday (May 18) details the bloc’s plot to phase out Russian oil and gas imports by 2027. While the idea behind the strategy is “good”, according to Yuriy Vitrenko, CEO of Ukraine’s state-owned gas giant Naftogaz, he urged the EU to “be bolder”. Instead, he said a “full embargo” on oil and gas should be the “ultimate goal”, perhaps providing exemptions for counties like Hungary which has vetoed proposed embargoes.

Mr Vitrneko told Express.co.uk: “The strategy is good, but we are in a situation where time is of the essence.

“While they are developing the strategy, they are still paying half a billion euros (£420million) to €1billion (£850million) per day to Putin’s regime to finance his war against Ukraine, and not just Ukraine.

“That is why it is impossible to be satisfied with the status quo. Speaking of a strategy, I think it can be bolder in terms of sanctions against Russian oil and gas.”

The Naftogaz boss is also part of Yermak-McFaul, a group of international experts drafting new sanctions they believe will be most effective at targeting Russia.

He told Express.co.uk that the EU’s plans could be smarter, and handed the bloc a plan.

Mr Vitrenko said: “It can be smarter by making some quick decisions now with some possible exemptions instead of delaying any decisions.

“Hungary is saying that it is dependent on pipeline imports of Russian oil. Just make an exemption for pipeline imports of oil and sanction all the other oil.

“Pipeline oil is from 20 to 30 percent of exports so this would immediately sanction 70 percent.

“But instead, the EU has been discussing a total ban for months and there is still no embargo.”

The REPowerEU strategy does appear to be attempting to appease Hungary so the bloc can push through with a ban.

It comes after Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said it could cost Hungary as much as €18billion (£15,2billion) to move completely away from Russian oil supplies.

Mr Orban warned on Tuesday that Budapest would have to significantly overhaul its energy system in order with the loss of Russian oil.

To encourage Budapest to budge on its position, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has suggested pumping €2billion (£1.7billion) into oil infrastructure to help Hungary and other landlocked eastern European countries the bloc slash dependence on Russia.

Mr Vitrenko also said the EU needs to come down tougher on Russia with regards to a gas ban.

He told Express.co.uk: “With natural gas, it is important to do something now and not delay a decision.”

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He slammed the EU for doing “the opposite of what we want to achieve”.

Mr Vitrenko said: “Currently, because of storage obligations, the EU is putting some pressure on market participants to buy more Russian gas.

“That is exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve because people are buying Russian gas to put it into storage at the moment.”

The industry insider also noted that there is potential to access “untapped potential” for supplies in the Middle East, which European nations could purchase as an alternative to Russian supplies.

While the bloc does detail in its strategy how it plans to import gas from certain nations in this region to scupper links with Putin, Mr Vitrenko claims there is problem.

He told Express.co.uk that suppliers in the Middle East told him they could “probably export more right now, but need some kind of longer term clarity on consumption of oil and gas inside the EU.”

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