Germany has dropped its opposition to a potential European Union (EU) ban on Russian oil imports after weeks of resisting the move.
The country’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Germany “won’t stand in the way” of sanctions against the Kremlin’s energy sector.
Habeck told German media the country had made progress in reducing its reliance on Russian energy suppies.
He said: “This won’t come without pain. But we will no longer experience a national catastrophe.”
The trading bloc – which relies on Russia for over a quarter of its oil imports – has been weighing up including a ban on Kremlin-backed oil imports as part of a potential sixth package of sanctions.
However, the EU has remained split over the proposal, while Germany’s stance has been tainted with confusion.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced Germany would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year, in line with the UK’s own gradual ban on Russian oil.
However, this was then played down by finance minister Christian Lindner and Habeck, who suggested the country needed more time down to wind down its dependence.
The government has previously warned energy sanctions would put thousands of jobs at risk and plunge Europe into recession.
Germany also triggered the early-phase of emergency plans, that could eventually lead to the authorities seizing the country’s gas supplies, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law demands for overseas buyers to pay for gas in roubles.
Germany caved to these demands yesterday, although the government still claims to be paying in euros due to a conversion process prior to transactions.
However, it appears to have finally conceded to a bloc-wide phase down of oil imports, after EU nations urged it the country to support a ban.
This includes many of the Baltic states and France.
Despite the apparent easing of this position, Habeck said he was still sceptical about the move, arguing it would allow Russia to sell its oil to other countries for an even higher price.
Russia has recently been offering its oil at discount rates to countries outside of Europe, including India and China.