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French minister predicts EU will hit Russian oil and coal within days as officials weigh sanctions

French EU Minister Clément Beaune said he thinks the bloc will target Russian oil and coal imports within days, as countries work on a new package of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

EU ambassadors are expected to agree to a new round of sanctions as soon as Wednesday, but it is unclear whether countries led by Germany will come on board with any plan to target oil, after resisting an embargo on Russian energy in recent weeks.

“Oil and coal are subjects that are under discussion,” Beaune told RFI radio Tuesday. “I can’t prejudge because it takes [all] 27 [countries] to have an impact, but I think we can have sanctions quickly on these two sectors.” Important decisions will be taken within “the next few days,” he said.

Beaune also said that targeting oil imports would hurt Russia a lot because “it brings in even more foreign currency in total than gas. Hitting oil, if I may say so, is very important.”

Referring to the European Commission’s plan to move away from Russian gas, the French minister said that “if over time we are able to do without [Russian gas], we keep the autonomy and we put much more pressure on Russia.”

Beaune added that other, smaller sectors such as cement, wood and fertilizer could also be part of the next sanctions package. Sanctions currently in preparation include “sectors that are sometimes less well known than energy but which are very important for imports, exports or the Russian currency: I am thinking of wood, cement and the fertilizer sector,” he said.

Beaune’s remarks came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron called for more sanctions targeting Russian energy, in particular coal and oil.

The EU spends tens of billions of euros importing about one-third of its oil from Russia and a ban would directly hit President Vladimir Putin’s ability to finance his war. At the same time, such a policy threatens short-term pain for those EU economies which, like Germany, rely heavily on Russia for their energy. 

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