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UK’s Johnson insists Russian oil sanctions ‘very much on the table’

LONDON — Boris Johnson talked up the prospect of Russian oil sanctions Monday even as his German and Dutch counterparts signaled their discomfort with the idea.

Asked about the prospect of banning Russian oil imports to the U.K., he said: “Something that perhaps three or four weeks ago we would never have considered is now very much on the table.”

He added that when it comes to reducing dependency on Russian hydrocarbons “some countries will find it faster and easier than others, that’s all — but we’re going to do it.”

The British prime minister was speaking at a joint press conference with his Canadian and Dutch counterparts Justin Trudeau and Mark Rutte, who highlighted the “painful reality that we are still very much dependent on Russian gas.”

“If we now would force European companies to quit doing business with Russia, that would have enormous ramifications around Europe and the U.K., but also around the world,” Rutte warned.

Allying himself with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Dutch leader called for “a step by step approach” in which “we do this diligently and not overnight.”

Scholz earlier said in a statement that “supplying Europe with energy for heat generation, mobility, electricity supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way at the moment” and “it is therefore of essential importance” to public services.

His comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country is in talks with European allies about banning imports of Russian oil in a bid to ramp up pressure on Moscow to halt its assault on Ukraine.

New energy strategy

At the press conference Monday, Johnson said the U.K. would consider using more domestically-produced hydrocarbons, but insisted he was not abandoning his commitments to cut the country’s carbon emissions. Trudeau pledged Canada would “be there to support the world” as it moves away from Russian energy imports.

Johnson promised a new energy supply strategy in the coming days, while U.K. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is set to meet G7 energy ministers for talks, his Cabinet colleague Liz Truss told lawmakers.

All three leaders meanwhile appeared to acknowledge the need to bolster defense spending, with Johnson pointing out “we can’t go back to the status quo ante in the way that we did after the invasion of Crimea … we need a new focus on our collective security.”

Rutte promised: “The Netherlands will spend a lot of extra money on defense.”

The three countries announced they will lead an “International Ukraine Support Group” to coordinate international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine.

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