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UKRAINE

EU countries agree to lift visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing war

EU countries have agreed to grant Ukrainians fleeing the war immediate leave to stay in the Bloc without a visa for one year, which can be extended if necessary.

EU countries agree to lift visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing war
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

A special meeting of European interior ministers on Thursday agreed to apply a little-used measure known as the Temporary Protection Directive to any Ukrainians who want to come to an EU country.

The 90-day rule has been in place for Ukrainians since 2017, and this allows them to enter any EU or Schengen zone country without a visa and stay there for up to 90 days, but until now what happens on day 91 had been unclear.

The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive means that any Ukrainian citizen can stay within the EU or Schengen zone for a year without having to apply for a visa or make a claim for asylum.

During that time they will be permitted to work and children can access education.

The status applies immediately and covers both Ukrainians who have already arrived and those who come in the days or weeks to come.

After the meeting, EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson tweeted: “Historic decision – the EU will give temporary protection to those fleeing the war in Ukraine. The EU stands united to save lives!” 

The measure was welcomed by the interior ministers of countries including France and Sweden.

Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s Minister for Integration and Migration, said: “This is an act of solidarity with Ukraine – that the EU supports those who flee the horrors of war caused by Russia.”

The Directive gives Ukrainians a similar status to that of someone who has been granted asylum, but different countries have different rules on requirements for registering residency. 

The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that 1 million Ukrainians have already left the country and this number is expected to increase in the coming days as Russia intensifies their attacks. 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, speaking on Sunday, said: “We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.

“We are mobilising every effort and every euro to support our Eastern Member States – to host and take care of these refugees.”

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ENERGY

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Italian energy company Eni confirmed it is opening accounts in rubles with Gazprombank to pay for gas supplies, complying with Moscow's demands.

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Eni said in a statement on Tuesday it was opening accounts in rubles and euros with Gazprom Bank “on a precautionary basis” as “deadlines for the payment of gas supplies are scheduled for the next few days”.

It was not immediately clear whether the move would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

READ ALSO: Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

Vladimir Putin demanded at the end of March that payment be made in rubles or the gas supply to European countries would be cut off, as he hit back at sanctions placed on Russia by EU countries following its invasion of Ukraine.
 
Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi said at the time that his company would not comply with the demands, saying “Eni doesn’t have rubles” and “the contracts say fuel payments should be made in euros”.
 
But many European companies and their lawyers have since been looking at ways to meet the demand without breaching sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine, reports Bloomberg.
 
EU officials had said opening a ruble account would breach sanctions. But its latest guidelines, to be published this week, are expected to stop short of banning bank accounts in rubles and  therefore allow companies to keep buying Russian gas, Bloomberg reports.
 
 
Like other European countries, Italy says it is working to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports in the wake of the Ukraine war.
 

But the Italian government has so far resisted calls to boycott Russian oil and gas.

Italy is highly dependent on Russian gas, importing 95 percent of the gas it consumes, of which around 40 percent comes from Russia.

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