Washington said an oil price cap will limit Russia's ability to fund its 'war machine'
Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Russia on Saturday rejected a $60 price cap on its oil agreed by the EU, G7 and Australia, which Ukraine said would contribute to the destruction of Russia’s economy.
“We will not accept this price cap,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told domestic news agencies. Russia, the world’s second-largest crude exporter, was “analysing” the move, he added.
The $60 oil price cap will come into effect on Monday or soon after, alongside an EU embargo on maritime deliveries of Russian crude oil.
The embargo will prevent seaborne shipments of Russian crude to the European Union, which account for two thirds of the bloc’s oil imports from Russia, potentially depriving Russia’s war chest of billions of euros.
Kyiv welcomed the price cap, which stops countries paying more than $60 a barrel for Russian oil deliveries by tanker vessel and is designed to make it harder for Russia to bypass EU sanctions by selling beyond the European Union at market prices.
“We always achieve our goal and the economy of Russia will be destroyed, and Russia itself will pay and be responsible for all crimes,” Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said Saturday.
- Limit funds for the ‘war machine’ -
Poland, which initially refused to back the price cap over concerns the $60 ceiling was too high, eventually confirmed its agreement on Friday evening.
Yermak noted a cap of “$30 would have destroyed it (the Russian economy) more quickly”.
The market price of a barrel of Russian Urals crude is currently around $65 dollars, just slightly higher than the $60 cap, suggesting the measure may have only a limited impact in the short term.
The G7 said it was delivering on its vow “to prevent Russia from profiting from its war of aggression against Ukraine, to support stability in global energy markets and to minimise negative economic spillovers of Russia’s war of aggression”.
The White House described the cap as “welcome news” that would help limit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund the Kremlin’s “war machine”.
Russian oil exports by sea
Russia has threatened not to deliver to countries that adopt the measure.
The G7 and Australia said they were prepared to adjust the price ceiling if necessary.
Russia has earned 67 billion euros ($71 billion) from the sale of oil to the European Union since the start of the war in February.
Its annual military budget amounts to around 60 billion, said Phuc-Vinh Nguyen, an energy expert at the Institut Jacques-Delors in Paris.
The EU embargo on seaborne deliveries follows a decision by Germany and Poland to stop taking Russian oil via pipeline by the end of 2022.
In all, more than 90 percent of Russian deliveries to the European Union will be hit, according to the bloc.
- ‘Endure’ power cuts -
On the ground, Russian forces carried out strikes in the east of Ukraine on Saturday, hitting a “civilian infrastructure facility” in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, the Ukrainian army said.
After suffering humiliating defeats during what has become the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure in October.
The war has killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and forced millions to flee
The strikes have caused sweeping blackouts, and cut off water supplies and heating to civilians at a time when the temperature in some regions has dropped to minus five degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).
The authorities have introduced scheduled power cuts several times a day to keep essential infrastructure working.
On Saturday, the governor of the southern region of Mykolaiv, Vitaly Kim, urged citizens to “endure” the electricity shortages.
Putin on Friday told Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz the Russian strikes, which have destroyed close to half of the Ukrainian energy system, were an “inevitable response to Kyiv’s provocative attacks on Russia’s civilian infrastructure”.
He was referring in particular to the October attack on a bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland.
Scholz “urged the Russian president to come as quickly as possible to a diplomatic solution, including the withdrawal of Russian troops”, according to his spokesman.
But Putin accused the West of carrying out “destructive” policies in Ukraine, the Kremlin said, stressing that Western political and financial aid meant Kyiv “completely rejects the idea of any negotiations”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ruled out talks with Russia while Putin is in power after the Kremlin claimed to have annexed several Ukrainian regions.
The Kremlin also said Saturday that Putin would “in due time” visit the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which he claims to have annexed. But Peskov gave no indication of when this could happen.