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Tensions over Hungary’s refusal to back more energy sanctions could see EU shelve ban on Russian oil

By Joe Barnes
Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, has previously signalled the issue would have to be dealt with at a European Council summit. Photo: Francois Lenoir

Brussels could shelve its plans for an embargo on Russia oil imports amid mounting tensions over the bloc’s attempts to roll out a sixth package of economic sanctions against Moscow.

Hungary has refused to back further measures against Russia’s energy sector, which has prevented the bloc from targeting more oligarchs and banks to ramp up pressure on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine.

Diplomatic sources told reporters the European Commission is considering carving out the proposed ban on Russian oil in order to overcome the opposition from Budapest for the wider package of sanctions.

But hawkish member states have now warned they will veto the package if eurocrats offer to water down the sanctions further.


Under the commission’s plans, EU countries would phase out supplies of crude oil within six months, and refined products by the end of the year.

After significant protests, landlocked Hungary and Slovakia, which are reliant on deliveries from Russia via pipelines, were offered until the end of 2024 to make the transition, while the Czech Republic was given until June that year.

Another possible concession would see Budapest handed hundreds of millions of euro from the bloc to accelerate the transition from Russian oil.


Officials have proposed hitting Alina Kabaeva, a former gymnast and alleged former girlfriend of the Russian president, as part of the package.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would also move to cut off Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, from the Swift international payments sections.

But without an agreement between EU member states on the oil blockade, these proposed sanctions remain off the table.


Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister previously signalled the issue would have to be dealt with at a European Council summit which next meets in the Belgian capital at the end of the month. 

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Dive Deeper:
EU insists Russia oil embargo will go ahead
BRUSSELS: The European Union still aims to agree on a phased embargo on Russia oil this month despite concerns about…
Hungary ‘holding EU hostage’ over sanctions on Russian oil
EU unable to agree on sixth package of sanctions as Budapest continues to block proposed oil embargo
EU oil ban adds pressure on Russia but obstacles remain: Analysts
For a complete embargo to be successful, the bloc has yet to convince countries which rely more heavily on Moscow.
EU's Russia sanctions effort slows over oil dependency
The European Union's efforts to impose new sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine appear bogged down
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Hungary's new president condemns Putin's 'aggression', plans trip to Warsaw
Hungary's President Katalin Novak at her inauguration ceremony on Saturday condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said her first trip…
EU’s Russia Sanctions Effort Slows over Oil Dependency
The European Union’s efforts to impose a new round of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine appeared to…
Get all your news in one place