Your Tuesday briefing: Europe is approaching an oil embargo

Hello. We cover the upcoming EU oil embargo, a plane crash in Nepal and Afghanistan’s struggle for its poppy fields.

The bloc is set to agree on a broad oil embargo, its most ambitious effort to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. The embargo would deprive the Kremlin of a vital source of revenue and accelerate Europe’s independence from Russian fuel. Here are the live updates.

The embargo, if approved, would have a high economic cost for the EU, which gets around 27% of its crude oil imports from Russia and a higher share of its petroleum products. Member states have spent around $23 billion each month on Russian crude since the war began and oil prices soared. The embargo would hurt Russia, but the damage would be slow until the restrictions come into effect.

And that also has political stakes. Negotiators were forced to capitulate to Hungary’s request to be exempted from the measure indefinitely. Prime Minister Viktor Orban is taking advantage of cheap energy – and his ties to the Kremlin. Hungary’s exemption will have little financial effect due to the country’s small size, but it does indicate how far Orban has detached himself from the rest of the bloc.

Struggle: Russian forces in the outskirts of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk are advancing on both sides, while an explosion Monday in Melitopol, a Russian-held city in Ukraine, appeared to target a pro-Kremlin regional leader. A French journalist was killed by shrapnel in the East.

Diplomacy: As Ukraine demands accelerated EU membership, moral issues collide with practical concerns. The bloc is seeking an alternative route to Ukraine and other countries on the periphery of Europe.

At least 21 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of a plane that crashed high in the rocky Himalayas on Sunday. One person remains missing, but authorities do not expect to find any survivors.

The plane, operated by Tara Air, was heading for Jomsom, a scenic tourist destination popular with backpackers. The flight usually lasts about 30 minutes, but the plane crashed in bad weather.

“No one is alive,” said Narendra Shahi, an international mountain guide, who was sent to the crash site as part of the rescue operation. “The plane crashed into pieces. It’s so heartbreaking.

Details: There were 22 people on board, including 13 Nepalese, four Hindu pilgrims from India and two German trekkers.

Security: The route is considered one of the riskiest in Nepal: planes have to fly through narrow valleys, where visibility is often a challenge, and pilots have to deal with aging planes and, often, bad weather . The EU has banned Nepalese airlines from its airspace due to their poor safety record.

The Taliban are trying to tackle the multi-billion dollar drug trade in Afghanistan. In April, the government banned poppy cultivation, with violators to be punished under Sharia.

But eradicating opium will be difficult. Farmers use cheap and highly efficient solar panels to power water pumps that irrigate poppy fields and cash crops like wheat and pomegranates. Subsistence farmers use them on vegetable plots. The panels, which also provide electricity to homes, are now a defining feature of life in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban have targeted some solar-powered pumps. A regional chief ordered that they be confiscated so that the newly planted poppies would die. But a widespread crackdown would deepen Afghanistan’s post-war economic collapse – the UN estimates that 23 million Afghans suffer from acute food deprivation – and antagonize Pashtun farmers, a hard core of the Taliban.

Data: Thanks to the pumps, the population of the previously uninhabited desert areas of Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces has soared to at least 1.4 million with the expansion of arable land.

Finance: Opium sales account for 9-14% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, compared to about 9% for legal exports of goods and services.

Background: In the 1990s, the Taliban reduced opium cultivation. But after the US-led invasion in 2001, taxes on opium and smuggling helped fuel the group’s insurgency. Now, eradication would require confronting commanders complicit in the trade at a time when the movement faces internal discontent as its money dries up.

Six years ago, an Indian couple financed their son’s lavish wedding after spending their savings on his pilot training in the United States. Now they are suing him and their stepdaughter for not having children yet.

The Orlando Museum of Art says Jean-Michel Basquiat made 25 paintings currently on display, saying the works were salvaged from a Los Angeles warehouse in 2012.

The owners of the paintings, who are trying to sell the works, agree. If authentic, Basquiat’s paintings will be worth around $100 million, according to one valuation.

But the FBI isn’t so sure. The bureau’s Art Crime team is investigating the authenticity of the paintings, interviewing people in art and design, and issuing a subpoena for “all and all” communications between museum employees and owners. works of art “claimed to be by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat”. ”

A couple of concerns: A designer said the FedEx typeface on a piece of cardboard, supposedly painted by Basquiat, wasn’t used by the company until 1994, six years after the artist died. Art dealer Larry Gagosian, who hosted Basquiat at the time, said the story being told about the origins of the paintings was “highly unlikely”. And two of the owners served time in prison for criminal drug trafficking under different names.

The specific focus of the FBI’s investigation and the people the agency is targeting are unclear. But the intentional sale of art known to be fake is a federal crime.

Mary I. Bruner