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Germany says Russia oil embargo would be ‘manageable’

Berlin could handle an embargo on Russian oil imports, Germany’s Climate and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Tuesday, suggesting the country could end its dependence on Moscow within “days.”

Habeck, speaking at a press conference in Warsaw, said that Germany had managed to slash its reliance on Russian oil by two-thirds in recent weeks, reducing the share of imports from 35 percent before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to 12 percent now.

The remaining Russian imports supply the Schwedt refinery in eastern Germany, he added, as other sites had already switched to alternative suppliers. Schwedt, which is run by Russia’s state-owned Rosneft, supplies the vast majority of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region with fuel.

A lack of oil infrastructure linking the former West and East Germany means the country’s eastern states would have been hit especially hard by an import stop — but a solution is close at hand, Habeck said.

Dealing with Schwedt “is the last task that still stands in the way of completely securing the energy supply. I can already say that an [oil] embargo has become manageable for Germany.”

Habeck was in Warsaw to work out if oil refineries in eastern Germany could in part be supplied with shipments via the Polish port of Gdańsk, and he said the two countries were working together on the issue.

The trouble with Schwedt, he said, was its majority owner.

“Rosneft’s business model is to buy Russian oil, and that is exactly the bone of contention: If we don’t want Russian oil anymore we need an alternative for Schwedt,” he said. “To develop this is the task of the next days — and yes, I hope only days.”

As for Germany’s remaining fossil fuel dependence on Russia, he said Berlin was on track to finding alternative coal supply to comply with the EU’s embargo; the bloc decided earlier this month to end Russian coal purchases by August.

The issue of natural gas, he acknowledged, would not be solved as quickly. The share of Russian imports is now at 40 percent, down from 55 percent before the war. Germany gets its gas via pipelines, but it aims to build capacity to take liquefied natural gas.

“Concerning gas, we are working hard to overcome the high dependency that Germany had — and that was a mistake — by building up LNG capacity,” Habeck said.

Daniel Günther, the premier of Schleswig-Holstein, said Tuesday that he expected the floating LNG terminal in his region to be operational by the start of next year.

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