Ms von der Leyen was asked by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag to outline the key points of a planned sixth round of sanctions, days after it emerged the bloc has paid nearly £30bn to Russia since Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
She explained: “We are taking a closer look at the banking sector, especially Sberbank, which accounts for 37% of the Russian banking sector. And, of course, there are energy issues.
So far, the EU has spared Russia’s largest bank from previous rounds of sanctions because it is, together with Gazprombank, one of the main payment channels for Russian oil and gas, which EU countries EU continued to buy despite the conflict in Ukraine.
Ms von der Leyen also said the EU was working on “smart mechanisms” so that oil could also be included in upcoming sanctions.
She explained: “What shouldn’t happen is that Putin collects even higher prices in other markets for supplies that would otherwise go to the EU. The top priority is to cut Putin’s income.
Ms von der Leyen, herself a former German defense minister in office since December 2019, was speaking at a time when the issue of Europe’s energy dependence on Russia is on the agenda of the day.
Last week Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged foreign countries to go further in severing ties with the Kremlin.
He explained, “As long as the West continues to buy Russian gas and oil, it is supporting Ukraine with one hand while supporting the Russian war machine with another hand.”
Speaking specifically about Germany, he added: “While Berlin has time, Kyiv doesn’t.”
Germany has faced strong criticism from Ukraine and other European countries, including Poland, accused of dragging its feet in terms of phasing out Russian energy.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s economics and energy minister, has announced plans to stop importing oil and coal from Russia this year, and gas by mid-2024 – a stark contrast to the United Kingdom, which has pledged to end all Russian coal and oil imports. by the end of this year, with gas to follow as soon as possible.
The issue was on the agenda when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Downing Street.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Johnson hailed Germany’s ‘seismic’ efforts to end its addiction.
However, speaking after it was revealed the EU had spent £29bn on Russian hydrocarbons since the start of the invasion while sending just £830m in aid to the Ukraine, Scholz acknowledged that change would take time.
As Germany invests heavily in renewables for its electricity supply, Scholz said it will need to import fossil fuels for years to come.
Speaking alongside Mr Johnson at a joint press conference, he said: ‘It is absolutely necessary that we understand that at the moment it will be important to source fossil resources from places other than from Russia.
We do and work very hard to make it happen.”