German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Monday pushed back against calls from the U.S. and Ukraine for a ban on imports of Russian gas and oil as part of international sanctions on Moscow.
In a statement, Scholz said Europe has deliberately exempted energy supplies from Russia from sanctions. He added:
At the moment, Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way. It is therefore of essential importance for the provision of public services and the daily lives of our citizens.
The Ukrainian government, some U.S. and European politicians are arguing that the West must end imports of Russian energy in order to stop helping to finance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest.
Scholz said that his government and European partners have been “working hard for months” to develop alternatives to Russian energy supplies, but stressed that “this cannot be done overnight.” He added:
That is why it is a conscious decision on our part to continue the activities of business enterprises in the area of energy supply with Russia.
The chancellor’s intervention followed comments by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said on Sunday that the United States and European Union were in “very active discussions” to ban imports of Russian oil. Japanese media reported that Tokyo had joined those discussions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday also called for “a boycott of Russian exports, in particular, the rejection of oil and oil products from Russia.”
The U.S. met with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro amid reports that the Joe Biden administration is seeking an alternative to Russian oil and oil products. Oil prices are already soaring due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.