Bulgaria’s exemption from Russian oil import embargo confirmed

The European Union has formally adopted the sixth package of sanctions against Russia over that country’s war on Ukraine, while confirming that a special temporary derogation until the end of 2024 has been agreed for Bulgaria which will be able to continue to import Russian crude oil and petroleum products via maritime transport.

The European Commission (EC), welcoming the adoption, said on June 3: “Sanctions are among the EU’s most visible, direct and powerful responses to Russia’s brutal and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, including systemic violence and atrocities against the civilian population”.

The package also imposes further sanctions against Belarus considering its involvement in this aggression, the EC said.

Based on a proposal by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the EU on June 3 also listed high-ranking military officers and other individuals who it said had committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol.

The oil import restrictions will phase out Russian oil imports in an orderly fashion, the EC said.

For seaborne crude oil, spot market transactions and execution of existing contracts will be permitted for six months after entry into force, while for petroleum products, these will be permitted for eight months after entry into force.

EU countries that have a particular pipeline dependency on Russia can benefit from a temporary exemption and continue to receive crude oil delivered by pipeline, until the Council of the EU decides otherwise.

However, EU countries benefiting from this exemption will not be able to resell such crude oil and petroleum products to other EU or non-EU countries.

“Due to its specific geographical exposure, a special temporary derogation until the end of 2024 has been agreed for Bulgaria which will be able to continue to import crude oil and petroleum products via maritime transport,” the EC said.

In addition, Croatia will be able to authorise until the end of 2023 the import of Russian vacuum gas oil which is needed for the functioning of its refinery.

After a wind down period of six months, EU operators will be prohibited from insuring and financing the transport, in particular through maritime routes, of oil to third countries.

“This will make it particularly difficult for Russia to continue exporting its crude oil and petroleum products to the rest of the world since EU operators are important providers of such services,” the EC said.

 An additional three Russian banks, including Russia’s largest bank Sberbank, and one additional Belarussian bank have been removed from SWIFT.

“These banks are critical for the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to further wage war. It will solidify the isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system,” the Commission said.

The measures on trusts have been refined and appropriate exceptions have been laid down in a revised version of the provision (for example, for humanitarian purposes or civil society).

The provision of certain business-relevant services – directly or indirectly – such as accounting, auditing, statutory audit, bookkeeping and tax consulting services, business and management consulting, and public relations services to the Russian government, as well as to legal persons, entities or bodies established in Russia are now prohibited.

The broadcasting activities of another three Russian State outlets – Rossiya RTR/RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24/Russia 24, and TV Centre International – have been suspended.

“They are among the most important pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets targeting audiences in Ukraine and the EU, and disseminating propaganda in support of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” the EC said.

Several regulators in EU member states have already taken action against those Russian state-controlled broadcasters and channels. They will now be barred from distributing their content across the EU, in whatever shape or form, be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone apps, the Commission said.

The advertising of products or services on sanctioned outlets has also been prohibited.

The June 3 package includes further export restrictions.

The list of advanced technology items banned from export to Russia has been expanded to include additional chemicals that could be used in the process of manufacture of chemical weapons, already controlled since 2013 for other destinations such as Syria.

The package further expands the list of natural, legal persons or entities associated with Russia’s military-industrial complex.

These natural, legal persons or entities are involved in various sectors, such as electronics, communications, weapons, shipyards, engineering and scientific research.

This update brings the EU in alignment with United States measures, while other partners are expected to align in the near future, the EU said.

The package adds the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea to the annex of partner countries that have adopted substantially equivalent export restrictions.

The list of Belarusian entities subject to restrictions has been significantly widened – from one entity to 25.

This is related to authorisations for the sale, supply, transfer or export of dual-use goods and technology, as well as goods and technology which might contribute to Belarus’s military and technological enhancement, or to the development of its defence and security sector, the EC said.

(Photo: Acodered, via Wikimedia Commons)

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