US, EU and UK target Russian oil and gas sector

The US and UK are banning Russian oil and the EU is ending its reliance on Russian gas as countries harden their response to the invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden said the move targeted “the main artery of Russia’s economy”.

He spoke soon after the European Commission said it would reduce EU demand for Russian gas by two-thirds – the EU gets 40% of its gas from Russia.

The move is likely to mean higher petrol prices and bills for consumers.

Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on energy. It is the world’s third-biggest oil producer, behind Saudi Arabia and the US.

Before the measures were announced, Russia warned of “catastrophic” consequences for the global economy and said it might close its main gas pipeline to Germany.

Investor fears of an embargo drove Brent crude oil to $139 (£106) a barrel at one point on Monday – its highest level for almost 14 years.

“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” said President Biden.

“That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to [President Vladimir] Putin.”

Mr Biden admitted the move was “not without cost at home,” adding the decision was taken “in close consultation” with allies.

In a similar move, the UK is to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, accepted that the move would not hit Russia immediately but added “what it will do is add to the pressure we’re already seeing on Russia and don’t forget that the economic impact of the sanctions that the UK has led has been extreme”.

About 8% of US oil and refined product imports come from Russia, while Russia makes up about 6% of the UK’s oil imports.

The EU is much more reliant on Russian energy, and said it would switch to alternative supplies and expand clean energy faster to fill the shortfall, with the aim of making Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels “well before 2030”.

Even countries with low Russian energy imports are likely to feel the impact as the measures are likely to boost already high wholesale prices.

The move adds to a long list of economic sanctions imposed against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine – the central bank has had its assets frozen, some Russian banks have been cut off from global payment networks and Germany suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have transported more gas from Russia to Germany.

Major companies have withdrawn from Russia and those that have not are under pressure to follow suit.