kyiv has won the battle for the European oil embargo, which is supposed to dry up the financing of Moscow’s “war machine”. The 27 member countries of the European Union agreed overnight from Monday to Tuesday on a gradual embargo on Russian oil. This will initially concern oil transported by boat, ie two thirds of European purchases of Russian black gold. A temporary exemption has been provided for oil transported by pipeline, in order to lift Budapest’s veto.

“This will cut off a huge source of funding for Russia’s war machine,” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted. The extension of the embargo to deliveries by pipeline will then be discussed “as soon as possible” and, in total, 90% of Russian oil exports to the EU will be stopped by the end of the year, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier challenged the Europeans on their need to stand up to Moscow, in a video message broadcast during the extraordinary summit in Brussels.

“The key point of course is oil. Europe will have to give up Russian oil. Because the very independence of Europeans from the Russian energy weapon is at stake”, he said. he commented on Monday evening in his daily address to his compatriots, even before the news from Brussels broke.

This sixth package of European sanctions also includes the exclusion of three Russian banks from the Swift international financial system, including Sberbank, the country’s main establishment. “Swift’s exclusion does not change the situation for international settlements,” the public bank said in a statement. “Internal operations in Russia do not depend on Swift, and will be carried out by the bank normally”, adds the establishment.

European leaders also approved on Monday evening the granting of 9 billion euros to the Ukrainian government to cover its immediate cash needs to keep its economy running. The second and last day of the summit must also address this Tuesday, May 31, the continent’s energy transition to do without Russian gas, and the food crisis linked to the war in Ukraine which threatens the African continent in particular.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a telephone conversation on Monday that Russia was ready to work with Turkey on the free movement of goods in the Black Sea, including “the export of grain from Ukrainian ports,” according to a Kremlin statement. Pending a possible unblocking of the Ukrainian ports, the pro-Russian separatist forces announced on Tuesday that they had relaunched the port activities of Mariupol, despite the devastation of this city on the Sea of ​​Azov, bombarded relentlessly for nearly three months. “Today 2,500 tons of rolls of rolled sheet metal left the port of Mariupol”, in the direction of the Russian city of Rostov-on-the-Don, rejoiced the leader of the pro-Russian separatists of Donetsk on his Telegram messenger. Ukraine and Western countries accuse Moscow of blocking Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which Russian officials deny.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are advancing in the east of the country. They have taken possession of “part” of Severodonetsk, a city they have been pounding and trying to take for weeks, the governor of the region announced on Tuesday. “The situation is ultra-complicated. Part of Severodonetsk is controlled by the Russians”, indicated on Telegram Serguiï Gaïdaï, at the head of the Lugansk region. He said, however, that the Russians “cannot advance freely”, with Ukrainian fighters “still remaining” in the city.

“The enemy is planning an operation to clear the territory of the neighboring villages,” said Serguiï Gaïdaï, saying that he had no news of three doctors who had disappeared since the day before. On Monday, the governor announced that Russian forces had advanced to the center of Severodonetsk, a city of some 100,000 inhabitants before the war today largely destroyed and deserted.

Some 12,000 civilians could remain in this town of 100,000 before the war, trapped in fighting and bombardment, the Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO whose main staff in Ukraine was, until recently, said on Tuesday. to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 14, based in this city. After distributing food and basic necessities to residents in Severodonetsk and the surrounding region until last week, “the intensification of the fighting now makes distributions impossible”, said its secretary general Jan Egeland in a press release. , calling on the belligerents to allow access for humanitarian organizations and the evacuation of civilians.

The city has been shelled for weeks by Russian forces and the pro-Russian separatists fighting alongside them. Dozens of civilians were killed there. Severodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychank are located more than 80 km east of Kramatorsk, which has become the administrative center of Ukraine’s Donbass since Moscow-backed separatists seized the eastern part of this large coalfield in 2014. It was in this area that a French journalist, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who worked for the BFMTV channel, was killed on Monday.

The Ukrainian forces, for their part, nevertheless claimed to regain ground in the South, in particular in the region around Kherson, a city close to Crimea which came under Russian control in early March. “The enemy left the village of Mykolaivka, in the north of the Kherson region”, says a bulletin from the Ukrainian army published overnight from Monday to Tuesday, referring to the departure in “panic” of “demoralized” Russian soldiers “.