The European Commission will announce sanctions on Russian oil in the next 24 hours, including a warning that complying with Moscow's demand to receive gas payments in roubles is a breach of EU sanctions.
The Commission is also planning to take action against firms that consult and lobby for Russian companies in order to prevent them from parroting Putin's public relations spin.
Sberbank, a Russian bank, will be excluded from the international payment system SWIFT as part of the package. Chemical restrictions will also be tightened, according to diplomats.
When European commissioners meet in Strasbourg for their weekly "college meeting," they will vote on President Ursula von der Leyen's proposal to phase out Russian oil as part of the latest round of sanctions.
The sixth round of sanctions imposed by the European Commission this week includes a ban on buying Russian oil – with some exceptions. This is the measure that will most severely deprive Moscow of its vast revenue streams, and it is a decision that has divided EU countries up to this point.
Russia provides 40% of the EU's gas and 26% of its oil imports.
Officials said today that the Commission plans to offer Hungary and Slovakia exemptions or a long transition period in order to keep the 27-nation bloc united, with any overall ban likely to be phased in by the end of the year.
Hungary and Slovakia both rely heavily on Russian crude. Hungary has stated that it will fight energy sanctions.
Other countries' opposition to an oil embargo had mostly faded ahead of a meeting on Wednesday between EU ambassadors to discuss the proposed sanctions.
"We have managed to reach a situation where Germany is able to bear an oil embargo," said German Economy Minister Robert Habeck.
Meanwhile, EU diplomats have been left in the dark about when von der Leyen will announce the sixth sanctions package, according to Politico — whether it will be this evening after the college meeting or Wednesday morning in the European Parliament.
According to commentators, announcing the move to parliament would strengthen relations with the Commission, but ambassadors are concerned that it would leave them with insufficient time to go over the finer points.
Hungary, predictably, has been tough on the package, stating that it is not ready to support it.
Budapest's government – as well as Slovakia's – are expected to receive some form of transitional assistance.
Poland and the Baltic countries, on the other hand, had pushed for an earlier phase-out.
Anna Moskwa, Poland's climate minister, called for "immediate sanctions on Russian oil and gas" on Monday.
By fLEXI tEAM