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Austria rejects sanctions against Russian oil, gas

LUXEMBOURG — Austria’s finance minister Monday ruled out any EU sanctions that target oil and gas coming from Russia.

“We are very much dependent on the Russian gas, and I think all sanctions that hit us more than the Russians wouldn’t be good for us,” Magnus Brunner told reporters ahead of a Eurogroup gathering of eurozone peers in the Grand Duchy. “That’s why we’re against the sanctions in the oil and gas.”

Brunner’s comments come just hours after French President Emmanuel Macron called for new sanctions that target coal and oil while he spoke on the radio broadcaster France Inter. Belgium’s finance minister, Vincent Van Peteghem, said his country is unopposed to such targeted action.

The EU has already smacked Moscow with four rounds of sanctions, and talks are underway to introduce a fifth package amid reports of Russian soldiers executing civilians in Ukrainian towns they hold.

Brunner described the reports as “extremely horrible” but said “you have to stay cool” when it comes to sanctions. But Vienna is happy to continue targeting Russian individuals, he said.

“If the sanctions hit yourself more than the other one, I don’t think that’s the right way to go,” Brunner said.

Nothing is off the table as far as the European Commission is concerned, Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told journalists after being asked whether oil would be included in the next package of sanctions.

Ministers will Monday discuss the economic fallout that could come from the war in Ukraine and how current and future sanctions would impact growth. The Commission is scheduled to release its next round of economic forecasts in late May.

“Our current assessment is that the implications of the war in Ukraine will be a substantial slowdown of economic growth within the EU,” Dombrovskis said. “But not recession.”

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