European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised last month the bloc’s sanctions against Moscow would “cripple Putin’s ability to finance his war machine”. So far, however, the EU has failed to put significant pressure on the Communist regime by continuing to fund its military operation with large purchases of oil and gas.
The bloc is still sending Russia up to €800 million a day in gas purchases.
The hoped result that sanctions would weaken Russia’s economy were was also slashed by a fast recovery of the value of the ruble, leaving Vladimir Putin with the upper hand in his war against the west.
European buyers of Russian gas faced a deadline to start paying in rubles on Friday, while negotiations aimed at ending the five-week war were set to resume even as Ukraine braced for further attacks in the south and east.
Ukrainian authorities were hoping to evacuate more residents from the besieged southern port of Mariupol on Friday after Russia agreed to open a humanitarian corridor, but several previous deals have collapsed amid mutual recriminations.
Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and galvanised the United States and allies around the world to impose punishing penalties on Russian government entities, businesses and oligarchs.
Russia will respond to European Union sanctions, the RIA news agency quoted a senior foreign ministry official on Friday.
“The actions of the EU will not remain unanswered … the irresponsible sanctions by Brussels are already negatively affecting the daily lives of ordinary Europeans,” Nikolai Kobrinets told the news agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin played one of his biggest cards on Thursday, demanding European energy buyers start paying in rubles from Friday or have existing contracts halted.
READ MORE: Putin humiliated as ‘exhausted’ troops retreat from strategic airport
European governments rejected Putin’s ultimatum, with the continent’s biggest recipient of Russian gas, Germany, calling it “blackmail”.
The energy showdown has huge ramifications for Europe as US officials circle the globe to keep pressure on Putin to stop an invasion that has uprooted a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people.
The International Energy Agency will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss a new release of strategic oil reserves alongside a US plan to pump massive supplies starting in May to cool oil prices that had soared more than 30 percent this year largely as a result of the Ukraine war.
The war also threatens to disrupt global food supplies, with a US government official sharing images of what they said was damage to Ukrainian grain storage facilities.
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Putin sent troops on February 24 for what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine. Western countries say Putin’s real aim was to topple Ukraine’s government.
At talks this week, Moscow said it would reduce offensives near the capital Kyiv and in the north as a goodwill gesture and focus on “liberating” the southeastern Donbas region.
Kyiv and its allies say Russia is instead trying to regroup after taking losses from a Ukrainian counter-offensive that has recaptured suburbs of the capital plus strategic areas in the northeast and southwest.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian troops have started a partial withdrawal from the Kyiv region towards Belarus and were taking looted vehicles with them.