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MOSCOW: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that coal was in high demand, and that Russian coal earmarked for Europe would be redirected to other markets if the EU refused it.

The European Union on Friday formally adopted its fifth package of sanctions against Russia since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products.

“Coal is still a highly sought-after commodity. As consumption in Europe is abandoned, here there is a certain grace period, coal flows will be redirected to alternative markets,” Peskov said.

The ban on coal imports will be fully effective from the second week of August, and no new contracts can be signed from Friday.

Russia exported a total of 223 million tonnes of coal last year, of which 48.7 million, or 22%, went to Europe, according to the Russian energy ministry.

The decision by European countries to abandon Russian coal would backfire, Russian energy minister Nikolai Shulginov said on social media on Friday, as he expects a process to replace coal shipments from Moscow to take time and drive costs.

He repeated that Russian coal companies would redirect supplies but did not specify to which markets. Japan, which joined earlier sanctions on Moscow imposed by the United States and the European Union, said on Friday it would also ban coal imports from Russia.

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