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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her speech during a debate on the social and economic consequences for the EU of the Russian war in Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. Image Credit: AP

Brussels: European Union countries will stop importing Russian oil and refined products, the head of the bloc’s executive European Commission said on Wednesday in proposing a sixth round of sanctions against Moscow for waging a war on Ukraine.

The European Commission also proposed removing Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank SBMX.MM and two other banks from the international SWIFT transaction and messaging system and banning three Russian state-owned broadcasters.

Fighting

The armed forces of Belarus began sudden large-scale drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness, the defence ministry of Ukraine’s neighbour said.

Russia has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups near Ukraine’s eastern city of Izium in an apparent effort to advance along the northern axis of the Donbas region and capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, Britain said on Wednesday.

A convoy of buses left Mariupol on Wednesday in a new attempt by Ukraine, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the southern Ukrainian city, the regional governor said.

Andriy Sadoviy, the mayor of Lviv, a western city near the Polish border, said late on Tuesday that air strikes had damaged power stations, cutting off electricity in some districts.

Reuters could not immediately verify reports of battlefield developments.

Business and economy

Russia was set to avoid a debt default after overdue payments on two of its sovereign Eurobonds were sent to creditors, four sources told Reuters.

US President Joe Biden visited a Lockheed Martin facility in Alabama that manufactures the anti-tank Javelin missile, spotlighting a weapon that has helped Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put the West on notice that he could terminate exports and deals, the Kremlin’s toughest response yet to the sanctions burden imposed by the United States and its allies.

Diplomacy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said no one could assume that Russia would not attack other countries given its violation of international law in Ukraine, and Germany would support Finland and Sweden if they decided to join NATO.

Pope Francis said he had asked for a meeting in Moscow with Putin to try to stop the war but had not received a reply.