The European Union is likely to agree to a ban on Russian oil imports “within days,” according to Germany, its biggest member, as Moscow says it is boosting its economic ties with China after it was cut off by the West over its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told world business leaders in Davos on Monday that sanctions against Russia should be increased to prevent other countries from using “brutal force” to achieve their goals.
Many of the 27 member states of the European Union, highly dependent on Russian power, have criticized Kiev for not moving fast enough to cut off supplies to the bloc.
Hungary on Monday stuck to its demand for energy investment before agreeing to such sanctions, as EU states clashed with pressure for speedy approval. The EU has offered up to 2 billion euros ($ 2.14 billion) in non-Russian supplies to Central and Eastern countries.
“We will make progress in a few days,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told broadcaster ZDF.
The European Commission and the United States are working in parallel on proposals to limit global oil prices, he said.
“It’s obviously an unusual measure, but it’s an unusual time,” he said.
Russia’s three-month-long invasion, the largest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 6.5 million people flee abroad, devastate entire cities and prompted unprecedented Western sanctions on Russia.
As another symbolic indication of its isolation, the US coffee chain Starbucks has become the latest Western brand to announce that it is leaving the country on Monday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the Kremlin will focus on developing relations with China because economic ties with the United States and Europe have been severed.
“If they (the West) want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, we will seriously consider whether we will need it,” he said in a statement, according to a transcript on the State Department’s website.
“Now that the West has taken a ‘dictatorial position’, our economic relations with China will grow even faster.”
The remarks came during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Asia, where he said he was willing to use force to protect Taiwan against Chinese aggression – a remark that seems to extend the ambiguity of US policy towards self-governing islands.
On the battlefield, Russia is trying to encircle Ukrainian forces and completely occupy the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, forming the eastern Donbass region, where Moscow supports separatist forces.
Its focus has been on the east since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the capital, Kyiv, and surrounding areas in the north in late March.
Zelensky on Monday described Ukraine’s worst military casualties since a single attack in the war, saying 87 people had been killed last week when Russian forces hit a barracks at a training base in the north.
“Every time we tell our partners that we need modern anti-ballistic weapons, modern military aircraft, we are not simply requesting empty,” he said in a speech late Monday evening.
“These requests are the lives of many people who would not have been killed if we had received the weapons we are requesting.”
Denmark’s pledge to send Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a launcher to Ukraine, announced by the United States on Monday, is the first sign since the Russian invasion in February that Kyiv will receive US-made weapons that will significantly expand its striking range.
Harpoons made by Boeing could be used to push the Russian navy away from Ukraine’s Black Sea port, so that exports of grain and other agricultural products could resume.
Russia says it is conducting a “special operation” in Ukraine to liberate its neighbor militarily and eliminate dangerous nationalists. West and Kyiv call it a false excuse to attack.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force Military Command said in its overnight update that Russian forces opened fire on 38 communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Monday, killing seven and wounding six.
Reuters was not able to immediately verify the information.
Russia is dropping bombs from the city of Donbass in Siviarodnetsk, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a telegram.
“Enemies are looking for places where people are hiding,” he wrote.
Other areas in the region are also under constant attack, he added.
Ukraine is investigating 13,000 alleged Russian war crimes, according to its prosecutor general’s website.
Russia denies targeting civilians or engaging in war crimes.
(1 = 0.9363 euros)
(Reporting by Alexander Kozukhar of Lviv, Pavel Polityuk of Kiev and Natalia Zenets and Reuters reporters in Mariupol; by Costas Pitas; edited by Rosalba O’Brien)