Russian oil ban not enough to stop them funding war says expert

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In May alone, Italy reportedly imported 450,000 barrels of Russian crude oil per day. This is four times more than the country was buying off Russia in February, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, according to Kpler, a commodity data company. The move will see Italy become the EU’s biggest import hub for Russian seaborne crude.

It comes as Italian prime minister Mario Draghi signalled his aim to slash his country’s dependence on Russian gas in a major U-turn.

Mr Draghi had been accused of hamstringing harsher sanctions when the bloc was mulling over a fifth package back in March.

One EU diplomat told The Times: “It’s becoming clearer by the day that three sides are forming: Poland and the Baltic states, known as the Sanctionistas that want more and stronger sanctions.

“Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria — the Contras — that prioritise their own economic interests.”

But after securing a gas deal with Algeria, the Italian Prime Minister has appeared more at ease with the EU’s sanction plans.

Now, Italy is backing the EU’s proposed embargo that would see all Russian oil from Europe banned by the end of the year.

Last year, the EU imported a staggering €48.5billion (£38billion) of crude oil in 2021, and €22.5billion (£19billion) of petroleum oils other than crude from Russia.

And as the war rumbles on the bloc continues to hand Russia billions.

But the embargo plans have been hit with fierce opposition from Hungary which argues it needs financial support to be able to cope with the ban.

And as all 27 nations of the union need to agree for a sanctions package to go through, the EU has been scrambling to convince Budapest to cave.

Now, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has suggested pumping €2billion (£1.7billion) into oil infrastructure to persuade Hungarian President Viktor Orban.

This is because it helps landlocked eastern European states like Hungary slash their dependence on Russian crude.

Italy has also appeared to cave to Putin’s pressure after one of its gas companies agreed to pay for Putin’s gas in rubles.

Italian energy company Eni announced it will open a ruble-denominated account at Gazprombank.

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This is to ensure that its next payment for Russian gas due in the “next few days” gets accepted by Russia.

It comes after Putin has warned “unfriendly” countries that they must buy Russian gas in rubles by March 31 or else face a supply cut.

He made clear that to do so, European nations must open up ruble accounts in Russian banks, and if not, Moscow would rip up its gas contracts.

The Italian company appears to have caved to the demand, despite fears that it could undermine Western sanctions.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said back in April: “Our guidance here is very clear.

“If this is not foreseen in the contract, to pay in rubles is a breach of our sanctions.”

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