Apr 4, 2022 - World

Bucha massacre revives EU momentum to cut off Russian energy

Russian revenue from energy exports, by year
Reproduced from Bloomberg; Chart: Axios Visuals

Russia's massacre of civilians in Bucha has reignited a debate within the European Union about banning Russian energy imports — and whether any threshold of atrocity in Ukraine would justify plunging Europe into a recession.

Why it matters: The EU's continued reliance on Russian energy is refilling the Kremlin's coffers at a breakneck pace, financing President Vladimir Putin's war machine at the same time Western leaders claim to be collecting evidence for a future trial at The Hague.

By the numbers: EU countries have paid Russia more than $20 billion for fossil fuels since the invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

  • Russia is projected to earn $320.7 billion from energy exports this year — 36% more than in 2021, according to Bloomberg Economics.
  • Oil and gas exports made up about 40% of the Russian government's budget last year.

Driving the news: The searing images from Bucha over the weekend prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to come out Monday in favor of a fresh round of sanctions on Russian oil and coal.

  • Russian gas would be left out of any potential embargo for now, as it accounts for 40% of Europe's supply.
  • But momentum for a sanctions package that would ban oil and coal imports is growing.
  • That would, potentially, allow Europe to take a stand against the atrocities while buying more time for a gas phase-down.

Between the lines: The EU's ability to forge consensus among all 27 member states for sanctions is being tested by electoral politics and war fatigue.

  • Hungary's far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Putin's closest ally in Europe, won a resounding victory in Sunday's elections. He used his speech to attack both Brussels and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • German officials belonging to different parties in the governing coalition came out with mixed messages Monday about whether now was the moment to take a hard line on gas.
  • Lithuania, meanwhile, decided to move forward on its own, becoming the first EU country to fully cease importing Russian gas.
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