‘Support is getting soft!’ BBC host has EU security chief on spot over bloc’s Russia ban

Ukraine: Robinson quizzes Josep Borrell on EU's stance on war

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The BBC presenter noted Ukrainians had expressed concerns about the level of support received from the European Union in recent weeks. The European Council took days to reach an agreement on a near-complete ban on Russian oil imports, with France and Germany sparking fury with their continued attempts to broker a deal in direct talks with Vladimir Putin. Nick Robinson challenged the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, noting the new measures are estimated to still let in over $2 billion a month into Russia.

Mr Robinson said: “A commentator I know you know well, Gideon Rachman in the FT, reported Ukrainian at Davos conference as being incredibly edgy.

“They worry Western support is going soft.”

Mr Borrell replied: “No, it’s not getting soft at all. The leaders at the European Union Council decided to ban imports of Russian oil.

“More than 90 percent of Russian oil will be stopped, it was an agreement that certainly took into consideration the special circumstances of some landlocked countries. 

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“But 90-91 percent of Russian oil will be stopped flowing to Europe. And we will continue providing military support.”

The BBC host however hit back: “The agreement at the EU was that oil by ship would be banned, but oil by pipeline would be allowed.

“That still gives the Kremlin $2 billion a month from EU countries. That’s an awful lot of money for President Putin’s war machine.”

The EU security chief insisted people should focus on the positives of the new policy: “You can always look at the glass and say it is half empty or half full.

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“But this glass is 91 percent empty. Certainly, there is still the nine percent but don’t dismiss that we have decreased by 91 percent their oil revenues.

“Don’t look at the nine percent missing, look at the 91 percent.”

Council President Charles Michel said the ban would immediately cover more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia and cut a “huge source of financing for its war machine.”

EU leaders said they had agreed to cut 90 percent of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year.

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However, Hungary – a landlocked country that relies heavily on crude piped from Russia – and others concerned about the ban’s economic impact would benefit from exemptions.

The bloc also agreed to cut off Russian bank Sberbank from the SWIFT system and to ban three more Russian state-owned broadcasters.

The announcement came as Russia pressed its attacks in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the situation remained “extremely difficult”.

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