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US Treasury chief Yellen projects united front in Brussels

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sought European cooperation on financial assistance for Ukraine and backed EU efforts to ban Russian oil Tuesday, in an effort to display a restored transatlantic front.

“By standing together, we ensure that Russia cannot play off some of us against others,” Yellen told a Brussels audience on the second day of her trip to Europe. “Rest assured, if Putin continues this heinous war of choice, the Biden administration work with you and our other partners to push Russia further towards economic, financial and strategic isolation.”

“More and more the Kremlin will be forced to choose between propping up its economy and funding the continuation of war,” she added.

She also welcomed a proposal by the EU to ban imports of Russian oil by year’s end. It marked a shift in tone from her warnings last month against an immediate ban on oil, which she argued would help Moscow by pushing up fuel prices globally.

The U.S. and U.K. banned imports of Russian oil in March, but EU countries haven’t yet given their nod of approval as Hungary still opposes the current proposal, which other countries want to include in their sixth sanctions package against Moscow.

“I commend European leaders for their proposal to phase out oil Russian energy supplies within six months,” she said. “And I recognise the solidarity of the European people in accepting the implications of these proposals.”

On the topic of assistance for Kyiv, she called on Europe to pitch in to cover Ukraine’s financing needs of €5 billion per month to keep its economy afloat. “In the months until tax collection can resume at pace, Ukraine needs budget funding to pay soldiers, employees and pensioners. I sincerely ask all our partners to join us in increasing their financial support to Ukraine,” she said, referencing U.S. President Joe Biden’s $40 billion aid pledge for Ukraine.

The Commission had been mulling a plan to issue new joint debt to cover Ukraine’s immediate financing needs, but the idea was opposed by numerous capitals, including Berlin. Instead, finance ministers will discuss the broader topic of assistance at a G7 finance ministerial meeting in Bonn later this week, which Yellen will also attend.

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