Ukraine has called for more heavy weaponry from its western allies and “ruinous” sanctions against Moscow, as EU member states prepared to halt Russian coal imports but remained divided over a more far-reaching energy ban.
“My agenda is very simple,” the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Thursday before a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels. It has only three items on it. It’s weapons, weapons, and weapons.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said new western sanctions especially from Europe did not go far enough and Russia would see them as “permission to attack”. Some politicians are still “unable to decide how to limit the flow of … oil euros to Russia so as not to put their economies at risk,” he said.
The west must “bring Russia to justice”, Zelenskiy told the Greek parliament, and teach Moscow that “those who blackmail Europe with an economic and energy crisis always lose”. Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, said sanctions “must be ruinous enough for us to end this terrible war”.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the bloc should approve its fifth round of economic sanctions, including a ban on Russian coal imports worth about €4bn (£3.3bn), on Thursday and that measures against Russian oil would be discussed by foreign ministers on Monday.
“Sooner or later, I hope sooner, it will happen,” Borrell said. Zelenskiy is due to hold talks with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in Kyiv on Friday, the Ukrainian government confirmed, adding that no advance details of the talks would be announced for security reasons.
But while it welcomed a fresh wave of sanctions announced by the EU, Britain and the US – which targeted two daughters of Vladimir Putin as well as Russia’s biggest public and private banks – Ukraine insists Europe in particular must go further.
“We will continue to insist on a full oil and gas embargo for Russia,” Kuleba said. “I hope we will never face a situation again, when to step up the sanctions pressure we need atrocities like Bucha to be revealed.”
Images of dead civilians, some with their hands bound, in the streets of Bucha, a town north-east of Kyiv recaptured from Russian invaders, sparked international revulsion and renewed calls from Ukraine for the west to stop buying Russian energy.
Kuleba stressed the vital importance of weapon supplies as well as sanctions, calling on “all allies to put aside their hesitations, their reluctance, to provide Ukraine with everything it needs”. He added: “The more weapons we get and the sooner they arrive in Ukraine, the more human lives will be saved.”
Kyiv has urged its allies to supply more heavier weaponry such as air defense systems, artillery, armored vehicles and jets as Moscow prepares to renew its assault on the east of the country six weeks into its brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Kuleba said countries reluctant to supply offensive rather than defensive weapons were “hypocritical”, because there was “no longer any real distinction between the two” in the conflict. “I think the deal Ukraine is offering is fair,” he said. “You give us weapons, we sacrifice our lives, and the war is contained in Ukraine.”
Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, agreed the distinction was irrelevant and said the alliance’s members would step up with “air defense systems, anti-tank weapons but also heavier weapons”. Now, as Moscow repositions and rearms its forces, it was the moment to do so, he said.
EU sources said Europe’s ban on Russian coal imports – the key measure in its latest package of sanctions – would be approved on Thursday but would not take effect until August, a month later than previously proposed after pressure from Germany, the bloc’s top importer of Russian coal. The UK is due to ban Russian coal by year-end.
Punitive measures on oil and gas, however, which are far more significant imports, have divided the EU27, with member states more dependent on imports from Russia afraid of the economic consequences. Russia accounts for about 40% of the EU’s natural gas consumption and a third of its oil imports.
Ukraine on Thursday accused Hungary, which has said it is prepared to pay in rubles for Russian gas, of adopting an “unfriendly” position. “If Hungary really wants to help end the war, here’s how to do it: stop destroying unity in the EU,” foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said.
Budapest should “support new anti-Russian sanctions, provide military assistance to Ukraine, and not create additional sources of funding for Russia’s military machine”, he added. “It is never too late to get on the right side of history.”
Putin called Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has long sought a rapprochement with Moscow, to congratulate him after his party won a fourth consecutive term in general elections last week. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said a subsequent proposal by Budapest to host peace talks “looks cynical”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism