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Central European countries divided on Russian gas and oil embargo

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Budapest, Hungary – Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary opposed plans to impose sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector as European countries try to ramp up pressure on Moscow.

“Although we fully oppose the Russian offensive [against Ukraine] and we also condemn war, we will not let Hungarian families pay for it,” said Orban, who’s facing a tough reelection bid next month and was until recently one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in the EU.

“The majority of Hungarian imports of oil and gas comes from Russia […]. The Hungarian economy just cannot work without Russian fossil fuels,” he commented, adding that the extension of sanctions on Russia’s energy sector would represent a “disproportionately large burden” for Hungary.

Other EU countries reliant on Russian gas and oil – including Germany, Bulgaria, and Finland – have also opposed introducing a total ban on imports.

One of the most vocal supporters of harsher sanctions, Poland has repeatedly called to cut off links with the Russian energy sector, despite importing significant amounts of coal from Russia.

Neighbouring Slovakia has also come out in favour of an EU-wide ban on Russian commodities, including natural gas and oil, while the Czech Republic has maintained a more cautious approach.

Divisions within the bloc were evident during this week’s meeting of EU heads of states and governments in Versailles, France.

Following the extraordinary summit, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen assured European nations agreed “to phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal by 2027”.

But the Versailles Declaration signed by the 27 EU member states does not mention the 2027 deadline, and simply states that imports should be phased out “as soon as possible”.

In response, Ukraine’s deputy Environment Minister Irina Stavchuk renewed calls for Western nations to impose an embargo on Russian oil and gas, accusing the EU of paying “hundreds of millions of euros to Putin’s regime for gas” every day and fueling “Russia’s ability to continue the aggression”.