President Joe Biden has decided to ban Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia’s economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Today, I’m announcing that the United States is targeting a main artery of Russia’s economy.— President Biden (@POTUS) March 8, 2022
We are banning all imports of Russian oil and gas.
The move follows pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to U.S. and Western officials to cut off the imports, which had been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions put in place on Russia over the invasion. Energy exports have kept a steady influx of cash flowing to Russia despite otherwise severe restrictions on its financial sector.
President Biden was set to announce the move as soon as Tuesday, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter before his remarks. The White House said the president would announce “actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine.”
The U.S. will be acting alone, but in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies. European nations have said they plan to reduce their reliance on Russia for their energy needs, but filling the void without crippling their economies will likely take some time. Natural gas from Russia accounts for one-third of Europe’s consumption of the fossil fuel. The U.S. does not import Russian natural gas.
President Biden had explained his reluctance to impose energy sanctions at the outset of the conflict two weeks ago, saying that he was trying “to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump.”
Gas prices have been rising for weeks due to the conflict and in anticipation of potential sanctions on the Russian energy sector. The U.S. national average for a gallon of gasoline soared 45 cents a gallon in the past week and topped $4.06 on Monday, according to auto club AAA.
The United States generally imports about 100,000 barrels a day from Russia, only about 5% of Russia’s crude oil exports, according to Rystad Energy. Last year, roughly 8% of U.S. imports of oil and petroleum products came from Russia.
Even before the U.S. ban many Western energy companies including ExxonMobil and BP moved to cut ties with Russia and limit imports. Shell, which purchased a shipment of Russian oil this weekend, apologized for the move on Tuesday amid international criticism and pledged to halt further purchases of Russian energy supplies. Preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Department shows imports of Russian crude dropped to zero in the last week in February.
The news of President Biden's decision Tuesday was first reported by Bloomberg.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.