Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that the country would ban any oil exports to countries that agreed to an oil price cap imposed by Western nations that took effect earlier this month.
According to a presidential decree published on a government portal and the Kremlin website, “The supply of Russian oil and oil products to foreign legal entities and individuals is prohibited if the contracts for these supplies directly or indirectly” are using a price cap.
The decree was presented as a direct response to “actions that are unfriendly and contradictory to international law by the United States and foreign states and international organizations joining them,” Reuters reported.
The oil price cap was agreed to earlier this year by the Group of Seven nations, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union. It will be enforced by the G-7 nations, the EU and Australia, Reuters reported.
Shortly after the agreement was reached December 2, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said, “This price cap has three objectives: First, it strengthens the effect of our sanctions. Second, it will further diminish Russia’s revenues, and thirdly, at the same time, it will stabilize global energy markets.”
Russia, however, has said the cap will not affect its military campaign in Ukraine and expressed confidence it will find new buyers for its oil products.
Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, said the ban will be in effect from February 1 to July 1.
Also Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that the U.S. would stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
He reiterated a comment made late last week in a press briefing: “A tough winter lies ahead for Ukrainians, and we will work tirelessly with the G-7 and other partners to repair, replace and defend Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.”
In his nightly video address on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a meeting of the military command had “established the steps to be taken in the near future.”
“We will continue preparing the armed forces and Ukraine’s security for next year. This will be a decisive year. We understand the risks of winter. We understand what needs to be done in the spring,” he said.
Zelenskyy said he also spoke with the International Monetary Fund “regarding the work of the banking system and our cooperation with the IMF. We must provide even more opportunities for Ukrainians in the coming year and guarantee the strength of our banking and financial systems.”
On the ground, the heaviest fighting centered around Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine. Before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Bakhmut had a population of about 70,000 people.
After months of fighting, few people live in the nearly leveled town.
Reuters reporters saw fires burning in a large residential building, while debris littered the streets and most buildings had had their windows blown out.
“Our building is destroyed. There was a shop in our building. Now it’s not there anymore,” Oleksandr, 85, told Reuters, adding that he was the only remaining resident there.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an update: “Russia continues to initiate frequent small-scale assaults in these areas [of Bakhmut and Svatove], although little territory has changed hands.”
Earlier Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state media it is up to the Ukrainian government to determine how long the fighting in Ukraine will go on.
Russia launched the conflict with an invasion of its neighbor 10 months ago, and the Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying Ukraine “can stop senseless resistance at any moment.”
Lavrov said Ukraine knows Russia’s proposals for “the demilitarization and denazification” of Ukrainian territory and the elimination of threats to Russia from Ukraine, including four areas that Russia has claimed to annex. The international community resoundingly rejected those annexation claims involving Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Lavrov added that if Ukraine does not meet Russia’s demands, “the issue will be decided by the Russian army.”
Zelenskyy has said Russia can stop the war it began at any time by withdrawing its troops and restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity.
“Neither total mobilization, nor panicky search for ammo, nor secret contracts with Iran, nor Lavrov’s threats will help,” Zelenskyy aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted Tuesday. “Russia needs to face the reality. Ukraine will demilitarize the RF to the end, oust the invaders from all occupied territories.”
Luhansk’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Russian forces have withdrawn from Kreminna as Ukrainian forces were approaching after months of intense fighting.
On Tuesday, Retired General James Jones, the former commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, spoke with VOA’s Eurasia service on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Jones said two military takeaways from the past 10 months of war in Ukraine are how well-trained the Ukrainian forces are and how poorly the Russian forces have performed.
“I’m quite sure that Mr. Putin was convinced that this would be a very short war. I think he was convinced that NATO would be somewhat impotent to react to that,” said Jones, a national security adviser to former President Barack Obama. “The ability … to train and equip the Ukrainian army was slow to start with but has now achieved a certain cadence that is much more encouraging.”
“I’m quite convinced that President Putin believed that this would be a very short war, and I think his military probably told him what he wanted to hear, which is what militaries do when dealing with dictators,” he said.
As far as what could happen in 2023, that “remains to be seen,” he said. “I’m hopeful that things will come to a conclusion.”
Jones said the most important thing for NATO and the U.S. right now is quickly meeting the needs of Ukrainian forces. Later, he added, the alliance members must “make sure that we have a plan that can help Ukraine rebuild itself.”
“Ukraine, I think, is destined to be on the forward edge of the defense of Europe for a long time, depending on what happens in Russia, of course,” Jones said.__VOA News