Written by 08:27 Business

E.U. Sanctions Target Russia’s Liquefied Natural Gas

The European Union has agreed to a new raft of economic sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, the Belgian government said on Thursday. Notably, they include measures aimed at squeezing Russia’s profits from the sale of liquefied natural gas to E.U. members.

Most E.U. countries stopped importing natural gas that arrived by pipeline from Russia immediately after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But the bloc had refrained from initiating any formal sanctions against Russian gas imports, leading many E.U. countries to instead buy L.N.G. from Russia, which arrives by ship.

The latest action includes measures targeting imports of Russian L.N.G. that pass through E.U. ports on the way to other countries, known as transshipments, said a senior E.U. diplomat with knowledge of the agreement who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sanctions still require formal approval.

“This package provides new targeted measures and maximizes the impact of existing sanctions by closing loopholes,” the Belgian government, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe, said on the social media platform X.

Countries in the European Union imported 40 percent of their gas from Russia before the invasion, most of it arriving overland or underwater via pipeline. E.U. leaders banned imports of oil and coal from Russia months after the invasion, but they have allowed gas imports to continue, bending to pressure from some countries, especially Hungary, which has strong ties to Moscow.

Pipeline imports have fallen substantially since 2022, but imports of L.N.G., especially to Belgium, France and Spain, have increased, making the European Union the largest buyer of Russian L.N.G. Russia exported 41 billion to 45 billion cubic meters of L.N.G. annually from 2021 to 2023, and roughly half of that landed in Europe, according to the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch, welcomed the agreement, which also includes measures that focus on financial messaging services and restrictions on exports of goods and technologies that can be used for civilian or military products, in an effort to prevent them from reaching Russia through intermediate countries.

The European Union has struggled to prevent such goods from passing through countries not involved in the sanctions, allowing them to reach Russia.

“This hard-hitting package will further deny Russia access to key technologies,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “It will strip Russia of further energy revenues. And tackle Putin’s shadow fleet and shadow banking network abroad.”

The latest measures were agreed on by E.U. ambassadors after weeks of wrangling, as countries jockeyed to protect their own national interests. The rules are expected to take effect as early as next week.

All told, the steps will add an additional 100 Russian individuals and entities to the list of those targeted by European penalties, bringing the overall number to 2,200, European diplomats said.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting.


Last modified: 25 June 2024