EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen new sanctions on Russia – including a ban on importing coal, vodka and timber – were backed by the EU this week. The new coal ban is estimated to be worth 4 billion euros a year. But that is just a fraction of what is spent on Russian oil and gas and the ban isn’t due to be implemented until August.
European Union countries are, however, hitting some hurdles as they seek to agree on a fifth round of sanctions on Russia, with several countries saying the package is being watered down too much, according to people familiar with the matter.
EU ambassadors met Thursday morning with the aim of approving the package, which contains a coal embargo. But Poland is resisting a change in the draft sanctions plan, sought by Germany, that extends the phase-in period for the ban by a month to four months. The EU meetings are set to resume next Thursday evening with the aim of finalizing the package.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged that Russia has sustained “significant losses” of troops in Ukraine. In an interview with Sky News, he called it a “huge tragedy” for Russia. It’s a rare admission by Russian officials of military losses. But Peskov said that Russia still hopes to reach its goals in the coming days. Russia’s defense ministry reports that between 1,000 – 2,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, but independent estimates put the number closer to 10,000.
Ukraine’s president says there could be more gruesome discoveries ahead in the wake of the Russian troop withdrawal from the north of the country. There is mounting evidence of civilian killings, rape and torture. Authorities believe hundreds have been killed in one town alone. Mass graves were recently uncovered in the town of Bucha. But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the situation in Borodyanka – 70 kilometres north-west of Kyiv – is “much more horrific”.