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The longer EU pays for Russian oil, ‘the longer this war will continue’: Ukraine FM

If the European Union does not introduce an embargo on Russian oil, then Russia will continue to profit from selling oil and gas which pumps more money into its Ukraine war spending, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmtyro Kuleba told Al Hadath in an interview which aired Thursday.

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“Without the interim introducing oil and gas embargo on Russia by the European Union, Russia will continue to make billions of euros and investing by selling oil and gas to the EU. And they will then invest this money in the Russian war machine that will continue killing people in Ukraine,” Kuleba said.

“It’s very clear and simple. The more you pay for Russian gas and oil, the longer this war will continue.”

The EU on Wednesday proposed a phased embargo of Russian oil but did not manage to reach a decision. The embargo will be difficult to implement, given Europe’s distribution network and challenges associated with tracking crude once it is blended or refined.

If agreed by the member states, the plan is likely to go into effect within six months for crude oil and in eight months for diesel and other oil products, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

This is especially crucial because many EU member states rely heavily on Russian oil and gas and the bloc remains somewhat divided over their allegiances throughout the Ukraine war.

“Those countries who speak against the introduction of oil embargo or gas embargo, they are, in fact, siding with Russia,” Kuleba said, adding that it was a “great opportunity for Arab countries to revisit their relations” with EU member states so they can “gain stronger market position” in the bloc countries.

“I would encourage producers of oil from Arab countries, and then at certain stage producers of gas from other countries, to engage with the European Union in a more active fashion in order to gain better market positions,” the foreign minister urged.

“When it comes to selling oil and gas to Europe… we heard the statement of the government of Hungary that they will not support the six package of European sanctions if they contain oil embargo.”

Under the EU proposal announced on Wednesday, Hungary and Slovakia would be granted a longer period – until the end of 2023 – to adapt to the embargo, Reuters reported. This means that countries in the EU would still be able to purchase Russian oil via Hungary and Slovakia, unless the plan is ratified to prevent both countries from buying more oil than they need.

The Hungarian government’s press office said in a statement to AFP on Wednesday that it saw no guarantee for its energy security, but no definite answer was given on a possible outright rejection of the EU proposal.

Hungary has so far ruled out supporting any import ban with Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years – citing the central European country’s dependency on Russian gas and oil, AFP reported.

“We will continue working with Hungary, and I'm sure that the relevant discussion will continue at the EU level because the rest of Europe firmly supports the introduction of oil embargo against Russia,” Kuleba said.

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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

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