War in Ukraine, day 70 | The EU prepares an oil embargo, Moscow strikes in the west

(Zaporijjia) The European Commission has proposed a phased EU embargo on oil and petroleum products bought from Russia in retaliation for the war in Ukraine as the Russian army attacks sites in Ukraine on Wednesday, in the far west of the country.

Posted at 6:39

Joshua MELVIN
Media agency France

The European Union also announced that it would “significantly increase” its military aid to Moldova for fear that the conflict would spread to this small former Soviet republic of 2.5 million inhabitants, wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

“We will phase out Russian supplies of crude oil within six months and those of refined products by the end of the year,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

This ban will be implemented in a way that will allow for other supply routes to be established, she said, while Russian oil accounts for about a quarter of EU black gold imports.

According to several European officials and diplomats, the project provides an exemption for Hungary and Slovakia, two landlocked countries completely dependent on supplies through the “Druzhba” pipeline, which will be able to continue their purchases from Russia into 2023.

Brussels is also proposing to exclude three additional Russian banks, including Sberbank, by far the country’s largest institution, from the international financial system Swift.

The Commission also recommends sanctions be imposed on the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who has multiplied the number of sermons in support of the military intervention in Ukraine.

To Transcarpathia

For his part, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, paid a visit to Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, a few days after attacks in the pro-Russian Moldavian separatist area of ​​Transnistria and following remarks made at the end of April by a Russian general, Rustam Minnekayev, according to which the conquest of southern Ukraine would give the Russians direct access to this region.

“We plan to significantly increase our support to Moldova this year by providing additional military equipment to its armed forces,” said Charles Michel, who represents EU member states.

On the ground in Ukraine, Russian forces continued to shell the east, but also launched missiles at numerous targets across the country, as far as Lviv near the Polish border and the mountainous region of Transcarpathia near Hungary, hitherto protected from the war.

The Russian army continues its offensive in eastern Ukraine with the aim of “ensuring full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and maintaining a land corridor in occupied Crimea,” the Ukrainian army major said on Facebook on Wednesday morning.

“In order to destroy Ukraine’s transport infrastructure, the enemy fired missiles at facilities in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovograd, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kiev, Transcarpathia, Odessa and Donetsk regions,” the press release describes.

Two people have died in the Luhansk region in the past 24 hours, regional governor Sergey Gaidai said on Wednesday. “Every town in the region was under bomb attack,” he noted.

“Hell”

Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said 21 civilians were killed and 27 injured in the Donetsk region on Tuesday, the heaviest daily toll since the attack on Kramatorsk station that left 57 dead. Of the 21 dead, 10 were in the strike at a factory in Avdiivka and five in Lyman, one of the frontline fires.

Russian forces on Tuesday launched their first attack on the Azovstal steel mill, the last part of the Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol (southeast). Until now, Russian troops stormed this huge factory by air and from sea, without entering it.

For its part, the UN announced on Tuesday that it had managed to evacuate more than a hundred civilians from the Azovstal site, where dozens of others with Ukrainian fighters are entrenched in World War II underground galleries, without food or medicine.

In an online statement Tuesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 156 civilians had been evacuated and arrived in Zaporizhia, a Ukrainian-occupied town 230 km northwest of Mariupol.

Another evacuation operation is planned for Wednesday, “if the security situation allows,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday. However, nothing says the conditions will be met after the announcement Tuesday by Russian forces of their attack, launched after weeks of intense bombing.

Those who could finally be evacuated began to talk about the hell they had been in for weeks.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us. There was a time when we lost hope, we thought everyone had forgotten about us,” said one of the evacuees, Anna Zaitseva, holding her six-month-old baby Svyatoslav in her arms.

“People I’ve traveled with have told me heartbreaking stories about the hell they’ve been through. I think about the people who are stuck. We will do everything in our power to help them,” United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Osnat Lubrani, who took part in the evacuation operation, said Tuesday.

“Israeli Mercenaries”

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for his part, wanted “more humanitarian breaks” on the model of those organized with Kiev and Moscow and which allowed the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal, without specifying their possible places.

And in a phone call of more than two hours Tuesday afternoon with President Vladimir Putin, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron asked him to “allow the continuation of (these) evacuations”.

The Russian leader, for his part, called on Ukraine’s western allies to stop arms deliveries to Kiev. That same day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced additional military aid of EUR 355 million to Ukraine.

And diplomatically, Russia will boycott — a rare gesture — a meeting of the UN Security Council with the European Union’s Political and Security Committee (PSC) on Wednesday, illustrating a further deterioration in relations between Moscow and its partners at the United Nations. said diplomats.

“Israeli mercenaries” are fighting in Ukraine alongside the Azov regiment, which Moscow describes as “Nazi,” Russian diplomats said Wednesday, whose release on Hitler’s alleged “Jewish blood” had sparked a fierce controversy.

Ukraine’s Azov regiment, founded in 2014 by far-right activists before being integrated into the regular armed forces, has established itself as one of the fiercest opponents of the Russian forces waging a military offensive against Ukraine since February 24.

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