May 20, 2022

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has told a German news paper that the latest round of European Union sanctions will target Russian banks, in particular Sberbank. There will also be new sanctions on Russian oil.

In an interview published by Bild am Sonntag, von der Leyen was asked to name the sectors targeted by the sanctions, the sixth set of punitive measures from the EU in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are looking further at the banking sector, especially Sberbank, which accounts for 37% of the Russian banking sector. And, of course, there are energy issues,” she said.

Sberbank, along with Gazprombank, has avoided being targeted in previous rounds of sanctions due to its role in facilitating payments for Russian oil and gas. Whilst many European countries have reduced imports in light of Russian military aggression a number have not been able to completely sever ties with Vladimir Putin’s regime due to dependence on Russian commodities.

The EU is working on “clever mechanisms” to enable the inclusion of oil in the next package of sanctions, said von der Leyen.

“What should not happen is that Putin collects even higher prices on other markets for supplies that would otherwise go to the EU,” she said, adding that “the top priority is to shrink Putin’s revenues”.

Pressure has been growing on European nations to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas in light of the country’s attack on its neighbor, with some countries finding such a move to be challenging.

Germany in particular has become heavily dependent on commodities sold by the Putin regime, but in rhetorical terms at least is seeking to reduce this dependence. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, considered to be one of Putin’s strongest allies within the EU, has accepted Russia’s request for payment in rubles and is looking to increase gas imports from the country.