A Russian-announced ceasefire was due to begin Thursday at the besieged steel plant in the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol, to allow civilians to flee even as its defenders vowed to fight to the end.
The three-day halt in Russia’s attack on the Azovstal steelworks was announced as EU member states debated a proposed ban on Russian oil, the bloc’s toughest move yet over Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour.
The EU also pledged to “significantly increase” support for Ukrainian neighbour Moldova, where a series of attacks in a Russia-backed separatist region has sparked fears a war that has killed thousands could spread more than two months after it began.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said the bloc would “phase out Russian supply of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year”, a move that would still not touch its huge gas exports.
But within hours, Hungary – whose populist leader Viktor Orban is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s few EU partners – said it could not support the plan “in this form”, as it would “completely destroy” the security of its energy supply.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hit back that EU countries blocking an oil embargo would be “complicit” in Russia’s crimes in Ukraine.