European Sanctions Target Russian Liquefied Natural Gas for First Time

The European Union has agreed to a new raft of economic sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, the Belgian government said on Thursday. Notably, they include measures aimed at squeezing Russia’s profits from the sale of liquefied natural gas to E.U. members.

Most E.U. countries stopped importing natural gas that arrived by pipeline from Russia immediately after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But the bloc had refrained from initiating any formal sanctions against Russian gas imports, leading many E.U. countries to instead buy L.N.G. from Russia, which arrives by ship.

The latest action includes measures targeting imports of Russian L.N.G. that pass through E.U. ports on the way to other countries, known as transshipments, said a senior E.U. diplomat with knowledge of the agreement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sanctions still require formal approval.

“This package provides new targeted measures and maximizes the impact of existing sanctions by closing loopholes,” the Belgian government, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe, said on the social media platform X.

Countries in the European Union imported 40 percent of their gas from Russia before the invasion, most of it arriving overland or underwater via pipeline. But according to an analysis by Reuters in April, more than a tenth of pipeline gas had been replaced by L.N.G. delivered to E.U. ports last year.

The latest measures were agreed on by E.U. ambassadors after weeks of wrangling, as countries jockeyed to protect their own national interests. The rules must be formalized before they become law and take effect.

They also add an additional 100 Russian individuals and entities to the list of those targeted by European penalties, bringing the overall number to 2,200, European diplomats said.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed from Brussels.

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