'A powerful signal to the whole world': Zelenskyy praises UK and US over Russian oil ban

9 March 2022, 01:14 | Updated: 9 March 2022, 10:37

US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have introduced a ban of Russian oil imports to sanction Putin's regime.
US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have introduced a ban of Russian oil imports to sanction Putin's regime. Picture: Alamy/Ukraine's presidential office

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised the UK and US after they announced a ban on imports of Russian oil.

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Britain said on Tuesday that it was taking steps to phase out reliance on oil from Russia, with President Joe Biden also announcing a similar plan for the US to sanction all oil, oil products and gas.

Mr Zelenskyy thanked the leaders for the move in his daily address to Ukraine, saying: "This is a powerful signal to the whole world.

"Either Russia will respect international law and not wage wars, or it will have no money."

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Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business and Energy Secretary, said earlier that the UK will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.

"This transition will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to replace Russian imports - which make up 8% of UK demand," he said on Twitter.

"Businesses should use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected.

"The government will also work with companies through a new Taskforce on Oil to support them to make use of this period in finding alternative supplies."

However, the move could mean fracking in the UK is back on the agenda, after having been under a "moratorium" for over two years, according to the Telegraph.

Amid concerns over soaring energy costs, it is understood two Cuadrilla sites in Lancashire may be handed over to the Royal Geographical Society rather than being concreted over.

As recently as Monday, Downing Street denied suggestions that the fracking moratorium could be lifted in response to the crisis.

Boris Johnson accepted the move to ban oil will not hit Vladimir Putin's regime immediately as Ukraine remains under assault.

The Prime Minister added: "What it will do is add to the pressure we're already seeing on Russia and don't forget that the economic impact of the sanctions that the UK has led has been extreme.

"The Russian stock market hasn't opened for almost a week, the rouble has tanked and the noose is tightening."

Mr Kwarteng said the UK is a "significant producer of oil" and has "significant reserves", adding it would now work with countries such as the US, Netherlands and the Gulf from which "the vast majority of our imports come".

He added he was "exploring" ending the supply of Russian gas "altogether". About four per cent of the Britain's gas comes from Russia.

The UK and US are believed to be acting alone but in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies.

Mr Biden said: "Defending [democracy] is costly. We are oil producers and exporters and understand that our allies can't follow us."

It is likely to mean a rise in oil prices as companies look for alternative sources.

Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Climate and Net Zero, said it is the right decision.

"We need to do everything possible to isolate the Putin regime," he said.

"This decision reinforces the case for further action to tackle the cost of living crisis at home. Rising energy bills are already a concern for families up and down the country, which is why Labour has proposed a series of practical costed measures, including a windfall tax on oil and gas producers.

"This approach also further underlines the need for a decisive move towards clean energy."

The move follows pleas by Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelenskyy to western officials to cut off the imports, which had so far been a glaring omission from sanctions put in place on Russia over the conflict.

Energy exports have kept a steady influx of cash flowing to Moscow despite otherwise severe restrictions on its financial sector.

Earlier today, oil giant Shell announced it will stop buying Russian oil and gas and will shut all service stations in Russia.

The company apologised for buying a shipment of Russian oil last week at knock-down prices as it promised to slowly end its involvement in all Russian oil, gas and petroleum.

"We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil to be refined into products like petrol and diesel - despite being made with security of supplies at the forefront of our thinking - was not the right one and we are sorry," said chief executive Ben van Beurden.

The business said it will immediately stop all spot purchases of Russian crude oil and will shut its service stations, aviation fuel and lubricants operations in Russia.

Withdrawal from other associations with Russia will happen "in a phased manner, aligned with new government guidance", the company added.

The announcement follows the withdrawal of several major international companies from Russia following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

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