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BRUSSELS: European Union leaders have agreed an embargo on Russian oil imports that will start kicking in towards the end of the year and which exempts, for now, pipeline imports that Hungary and two other landlocked Central European states rely on.

The toughest sanction yet on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, agreed overnight after weeks of wrangling, aims to remove 90% of Russia’s crude imports into the 27-nation bloc by year-end, senior officials said.

“The purpose is to stop Russia’s aggressive war,” Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said.

Two-thirds of the Russian oil imported by the EU comes via tanker and one third through the Druzhba pipeline. The ban on the seaborne imports will be imposed with a phase-in period of six months for crude oil and eight months for refined products, a European Commission spokesperson said.

This means the target for refined products is effectively early 2023 rather than at the end of this year, since that timeline would kick in once the sanctions are formally adopted, with EU states aiming to do this week.

The target to cut 90% of all Russian imports by the end of 2022 includes seaborne deliveries as well as Poland and Germany stopping their own imports of Russian oil via pipeline by then, which they have pledged to do.

The remaining 10% would be temporarily exempt from the embargo so that landlocked Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have access to Russian oil from the Druzhba pipeline.

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