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Fueling the War: Why Energy Sanctions Matter and How to Make Them Effective

Mortise with still images of Sergei Guriev, James Kanter, Sam Leon, Olena Pavlenko, Daniela Schwarzer, and Georg Zachmann

The EU has responded to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine with unprecedented unity and several rounds of wide-ranging sanctions. Existing measures, though, have not targeted the primary source of the Kremlin’s revenues—its energy exports. An embargo on Russian oil and gas imports to Europe would curb Putin’s ability to fund his war on Ukraine more than any other measure.

This is the first discussion in an event series bringing together civil society and experts from Ukraine, the EU, and Russia to provide analysis, forecasting, and recommendations about how the EU could responsibly implement an embargo on energy imports from Russia, what this would mean for the war in Ukraine and Putin’s regime, how it would serve the EU’s green energy transition and energy security, and what would be needed to help Europe’s vulnerable populations to cope.

As EU leaders grapple with reaching consensus on biting energy sanctions, this first discussion will examine the likely effects on Putin’s calculus of an EU ban on energy imports. The conversation explores available policy options—including a complete energy embargo, staged bans or a phase-out of fossil fuels, and sectoral sanctions—and their costs and benefits. We also consider possible loopholes in, and deficiencies of, different sanctions regimes, and how to calibrate them for maximum impact.

The next two events of this series will address the EU’s green transition and the measures needed to redistribute costs equitably to provide energy and climate justice for Europe’s vulnerable over the long run.


  • Sergei Guriev


    Sergei Guriev is professor of economics at Sciences Po in France, and is a research fellow at the Center for Economic Policy Research.

  • James Kanter


    James Kanter is a journalist and the founder and editor of the EU Scream podcast.

  • Sam Leon


    Sam Leon is head of Data Investigations at Global Witness. 

  • Olena Pavlenko


    Olena Pavlenko is president of DiXi Group in Ukraine.

  • Daniela Schwarzer

    Executive Director

    Until May 2023, Daniela Schwarzer was the executive director for Open Society–Europe and Central Asia.

  • Georg Zachmann


    Georg Zachmann is a senior fellow at Bruegel in Brussels.

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