US says sanctions on Russian energy ‘on the table’

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a news conference on February 24, 2022 at the White House in Washington, the United States, on the U.S. response after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is “very open” to imposing sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas industry as it also weighs the potential impact on the market, the White House said on Wednesday, as global oil prices hit eight-year highs reached and supply interruptions mounted.

In television interviews, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that while Washington is still considering hitting Moscow’s huge energy sector over Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the impact on global oil markets and US energy prices is a key factor.

Asked whether Washington and its Western allies would impose energy sanctions on Russia, Psaki told MSNBC, “We’re very open.”

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“We think about it. There’s a lot on the table but we have to weigh what all the implications will be,” she added.

Though the United States has yet to target Russian oil sales as part of its sweeping post-invasion economic sanctions, US traders have already taken action to freeze such imports and disrupt energy markets.

Biden’s government has warned it could block Russian oil if Moscow continues its aggression against Kyiv. However, Psaki said the White House is considering how this could shake markets.

“It’s something we weigh heavily,” she told CNN separately.

Oil prices hit a high of $113 a barrel on Wednesday, almost a week after Moscow invaded Ukraine. Meanwhile, OPEC+ oil producers meeting on Wednesday agreed to stick with their modest increases in output, bringing little relief to the market or consumers. Continue reading

“We want to minimize the impact on the global market, and that includes the global oil market and the impact of energy prices on the American people,” Psaki said. “We’re not trying to harm ourselves, we’re trying to harm President Putin and the Russian economy.”

On Tuesday, the United States and its allies agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil reserves to offset supply disruptions.

Meanwhile, the United States is preparing a package of sanctions targeting other Russian oligarchs and their companies and assets, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. Continue reading

Previous sanctions have hit the Russian banking sector, among others.

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Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Doina Chicau; Adaptation by Louise Heavens, Mark Heinrich and Nick Zieminski

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