RIGA - The European Union's (EU) partial embargo on Russian oil is a step in the right direction, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said in an interview with the US news outlet Bloomberg.
The prime minister indicated that this is one of the biggest single steps against Russia yet that will about two thirds of Russian oil exports to the EU.
Karins said that the EU is Russia's largest oil and gas market, which means that this sanctions package will cut at least part of the revenue Russia is using to finance its war in Ukraine. The prime minister also praised the unity of the bloc's leaders in taking decisions on the sanctions without any great difficulty.
Asked about Hungary's impact on the sanctions talks, Karins said it was quite understandable that it was more difficult for some countries to end Russian oil imports. Latvia, for instance, have several ports through which oil can be shipped, but there are also several land-locked countries in the EU that are reliant on their infrastructure of oil pipelines that has been built over the course of many years.
Karins said that Hungary, too, has agreed to move towards giving up Russian oil but that this country simply needs more time for this step.
As for the next sanctions step, Karins believes that it should be an embargo also on Russian natural gas. The Latvian prime minister warned that this would be a much more complicated process because gas is more restricted in the way it can be transported.
As reported, EU leaders on Monday backed a ban on most Russian oil imports, after a compromise deal with Hungary to punish Moscow for the war in Ukraine.
The 27-nation bloc has spent weeks haggling over a proposed total embargo on Russian oil but came up against stubborn resistance from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels hatched a compromise deal to exempt deliveries arriving in Europe by pipeline from the ban, after Budapest warned halting supplies would wreck its economy.
"Agreement to ban export of Russian oil to the EU. This immediately covers more than two thirds of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine," European Council chief Charles Michel tweeted during the summit.
"Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war."