Europe proposes ban on Russian coal imports

By Mark Thompson and Chris Liakos, CNN Business

    (CNN) -- Europe is proposing to ban imports of coal from Russia as part of a new round of sanctions triggered by recent revelations of atrocities in Ukraine.

The measures were announced Tuesday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and still need the approval of all 27 EU member states. The bloc has already imposed four rounds of sanctions aimed at punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government for ordering the invasion of Ukraine.

"We all saw the gruesome pictures from Bucha and other areas from which Russian troops have recently left," she said in a statement. "These atrocities cannot and will not be left unanswered."

"We will impose an import ban on coal from Russia worth 4 billion euros [$4.4 billion] per year," she added.

If approved, the coal ban would be the first coordinated embargo by the European Union on the vast energy exports that power Russia's economy and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue each year.

EU leaders have thus far been unable to agree on targeting Russian energy because of the risk it poses to the region's economy at a time of soaring natural gas and fuel prices. But the mood appears to have shifted this week. French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday he would support a total ban on Russian oil and coal imports, and Germany indicated Tuesday that it could support a coal ban.

"Russia is waging a cruel and ruthless war in Ukraine, not only against its brave troops but also against its civilian population," von der Leyen told reporters. "It is important to sustain utmost pressure on Putin and the Russian government at this point."

The head of the European Commission also said that officials were working on additional sanctions, including on imports of oil from Russia.

Russia was the world's third largest exporter of coal in 2020, behind Australia and Indonesia, according to the International Energy Agency. It's also the leading exporter of thermal coal to the European Union, ahead of China and South Korea.

Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources at Eurasia Group, said European coal prices had already shot up in anticipation of potential EU sanctions.

"Sanctioning coal will make life much more difficult for European utilities, which consume a lot of Russian coal, but energy companies can cope with this, and politicians find this an easier sale publicly because it chimes well with the general and accelerating EU green transition," he told CNN Business.

— Anna Cooban contributed to this article.

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