The EU proposes a new round of sanctions against the Kremlin for ‘false’ referendums.

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday unveiled a series of new sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for escalating the war in Ukraine by recruiting at least 300,000 men into its army, threatening to use nuclear weapons and holding discredited referendums on territories occupied considered as a prelude to annexation.

The preliminary measures were proposed by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, and include a cap on the price of oil, trade restrictions and the blacklisting of several people responsible for what officials called “bogus” referendums.

To implement the sanctions, all member nations would have to give the package the green light, with Hungary expected to be the main obstacle. The European Union has already imposed seven rounds of harsh financial sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine, with Hungary emerging as the main spoiler of the bloc’s joint response to Moscow.

“Last week, Russia stepped up the invasion of Ukraine to a whole new level” through referendums in the occupied territories, military mobilization and nuclear threats, Ursula von der Leyen, the top official of the Russian Federation, told reporters on Wednesday. block. “We are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this new escalation.”

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s top diplomat, said the bloc condemned “in the strongest possible terms the sham illegal ‘referendums’,” calling them a clear violation of international law and Russia’s international obligations. “All those involved in the organization of these false illegal ‘referendums’, as well as those responsible for other violations of international law in Ukraine, will be held accountable,” he added.

The ban on importing Russian products included in the proposal would cost Moscow €7 billion, von der Leyen said, while a ban on exporting European products, such as aircraft items or chemicals, to Russia would weaken “the military complex of the Kremlin. ”

The proposal also establishes “a legal basis” for an oil price cap, although Ms von der Leyen did not provide further details. Earlier this year, the bloc reached an agreement to ban Russian oil imports by sea, which make up the vast majority of fuel shipments to the bloc from Moscow.

The Commission also wants to ban European citizens from being part of the governing bodies of Russian state-owned companies, so that Moscow can no longer benefit from “European knowledge and experience”. Several former European officials served as board members of large Russian companies, the most prominent example being former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who was paid almost $1 million a year by Russian-controlled energy companies.

But foreign policy is traditionally the province of national governments, and the Commission’s proposal requires the approval of all member countries. Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orban, has repeatedly said that he would veto further energy sanctions.

Speaking before the Hungarian parliament on Monday, Orban said that the sanctions adopted by Brussels were hurting Europe more than Russia.

“We can safely say that as a result of sanctions, Europeans have become poorer while Russia has not been brought to its knees,” he said. “This weapon has failed: with the sanctions Europe has shot itself in the foot.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed report.