Russian energy imports 'essential' to Europeans' lives, says German Chancellor
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cautioned Monday against banning Russian oil and gas as part of Western sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, saying doing so could put Europe's energy security at risk.
Scholz said that Germany welcomed "all international efforts to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with deep and targeted sanctions".
He added that the sanctions against Russian financial institutions, the Central Bank in Moscow and more than 500 individuals give a clear message.
"The same applies to export restrictions on important goods," said Scholz.
The sanctions were designed so that they "hit Russia hard and can be sustained over the long term".
However, the Chancellor warned that energy supplies cannot be included in the sanctions.
"Europe has deliberately exempted energy supplies from Russia from sanctions," Scholz said in the statement.
"Supplying Europe with energy for heat generation, mobility, electricity supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way at the moment. It is, therefore, of essential importance for the provision of public services and the daily lives of our citizens."
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selensky has been urging further and stricter sanctions against Russia including a boycott of Russian exports.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, Germany imported €19.4 billion worth of crude oil and natural gas from Russia last year - accounting for 59 percent of all imports from the country.
The state of Bavaria accounted for the largest share: with almost €5.7 billion, it accounted for about 29 percent of the nationwide total. Brandenburg (€3.8 billion) and Hesse (€3 billion) follow. According to the Munich Chamber of Industry and Commerce, 36 percent of Bavaria's oil and gas imports come from Russia.
Scholz said the German government had been working hard for months to "develop alternatives to Russian energy" with EU partners and others.
"However, this cannot be done overnight," he said. "Therefore, it is a conscious decision on our part to continue the activities of business enterprises in the area of energy supply with Russia."
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) pointed out Germany's "insanely high dependence" on imports.
She warned that if imports of oil, gas and coal from Russia were stopped, the lights could go out in Germany.
"We must, although these images of bombed cities tear at our hearts, always keep a cool head as well," Baerbock told ZDF. "We will not be able to stop the war by having the lights go out completely, here in Europe."