Italy, Romania to close ports to Russia as of Sunday
The European Union is moving closer to a total ban on Russia, with Italy and Romania banning Russian ships from their territorial waters as the West tries to up the pressure on Russia.
Italy will be closing its ports to Russian ships as of this Sunday, including those that have changed their flag since February 23, local media reported on Saturday.
The European Union had agreed on the fifth package of anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine, which included a ban on access to EU ports for ships bearing the Russian flag.
Romania had also banned Russian-flagged vessels from entering its ports, exempting ships delivering humanitarian aid and energy transit, as of April 17 as well, the Romanian Naval Authority said. Belgium issued a similar ban on Friday.
Italian newspaper La Stampa, citing the country's port authority, said the vessels currently docking at Italian ports would have to leave immediately after concluding their commercial activities.
"Effective April 17, 2022, 00:00, access to Romanian ports is forbidden for any vessel registered under the Russian flag, including vessels that have changed the Russian flag to the flag of any other state or that have changed their registration in Russia to the registration in any other state after February 24, 2022," the Romanian authority said in a press release on Friday.
The ban will not apply to the ships needing assistance and seeking refuge or ships that need an emergency stop in port for security reasons or to save lives, Bucharest detailed.
Other exceptions include EU-bound vessels carrying gas, oil, and petroleum products, in addition to titanium, aluminum, copper, nickel, palladium, iron ore, some chemical products, non-sanctioned pharmaceuticals, food, agricultural products, fertilizers, nuclear fuel, equipment for nuclear power plants, coal, and other fossil fuels.
The EU had declared preparations to join the United States and the United Kingdom in imposing an embargo on Russian energy products. However, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, the European Union buys the majority of its energy supplies from Russia, and experts have warned that cutting off the supply may have disastrous consequences.
After the war in Ukraine started, the US and its allies have rolled out comprehensive sanctions, including restrictions on the Russian central bank, export control measures, SWIFT cutoff for select banks, and closure of airspace to all Russian flights. Many of their companies have suspended their Russian operations.