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UKRAINE

Russia’s attack on Ukraine will ‘deeply destabilise’ food supplies in Europe

Russia's attack on Ukraine will "deeply destabilise" food supplies in Europe and Africa as some of the world's most fertile agricultural land goes unplanted, French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Friday.

Russia's attack on Ukraine will 'deeply destabilise' food supplies in Europe
Russia’s attack on Ukraine will ‘deeply destabilise food supplies in Europe’ AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP

“Europe and also Africa will be very deeply destabilised as regards food because of what can’t be planted right now in Ukraine,” Macron told reporters after an EU leaders’ meeting at Versailles Palace outside Paris.

“We will have to prepare for that and re-evaluate our production strategies to defend our food sovereignty… but also to be able to define a strategy concerning Africa,” he added.

Without it, he warned, “several African countries will be affected by famines within 12 to 18 months precisely because of the war.”

The French leader added that still more economic punishment would be piled on Russia if it continues its invasion of its neighbour.

“If things continue in the military way… we will take further sanctions, including massive sanctions,” he said, trailing a G7 statement on potential further measures “in a few hours”.

“All options are on the table,” he added, after EU nations have held off in the first weeks of the conflict from cutting off crucial oil and gas imports from major supplier Russia.

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ENERGY

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy's government has repeatedly said it plans to end its dependence on Russia for gas supplies following the invasion of Ukraine. But as the timeline keeps changing, when and how could this happen?

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian gas, but has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as part of an effort to end this reliance in the coming years.

But it remains unclear whether Italy can really end its dependence on Russia for its gas supply – or when this might be feasible.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s Algerian gas deal mean for energy supplies?

The government has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including with a recent deal to boost supplies from Algeria.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

“Government estimates indicate that we can make ourselves independent from Russian gas in the second half of 2024,” Draghi told the Senate, while adding that the “first effects” of this plan would be felt by the end of this year.

He said his government was also seeking to boost its production of renewable energy, including by “destroying bureaucratic barriers” to investment, saying it was the “only way” to free Italy from having to import fossil fuels.

Explained: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

In April, Italy‘s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani estimated the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months, following an earlier prediction that it could take until 2025.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest users and importers of natural gas, importing 90 percent of its gas supply with 45 percent of that coming from Russia – up from 27 percent ten years ago.

Italy now imports 29 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year, which Cingolani said in March “must be replaced” – but he didn’t specify with what.

Analysts have said there are “a lot of questions” about how helpful Italy’s gas deal with Algeria will be.

Despite its vast natural gas reserves, Algeria is already exporting at close to full capacity.

Draghi repeated his strong support for EU sanctions on Moscow last week, including a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil, although this is currently being blocked by Hungary.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure on Russia through sanctions, because we must bring Moscow to the negotiating table,” he said.

But for now, Italian energy giant Eni says it plans to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, meeting a demand from Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear whether the plan 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.

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