Europe struggles for clarity on Russia’s roubles-for-gas scheme

(EurActiv, 29 Apr 2022) The European Commission on Thursday (28 April) warned buyers of Russian gas they could breach sanctions if they converted gas payments into roubles, as officials struggled to clarify the EU’s stance on Moscow’s payments scheme, which has sowed confusion in the bloc.

Russian gas giant Gazprom cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday (27 April) after they refused to pay for gas in roubles, marking Moscow’s toughest response yet to sanctions imposed by the West over the conflict in Ukraine.

The demand for roubles is largely interpreted as a ploy by the Kremlin to weaponise its gas supply and create legal loopholes in sanctions decided by the EU against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

European Union energy ministers will meet on Monday to discuss the situation, which has left member states divided over whether sanctions would be broken if they used Russia’s mechanism.

To meet its demand, Russia ordered that energy companies from “unfriendly countries” change their gas payments into roubles at Gazprombank, a request that some in the EU, including Germany, said did not break sanction rules.

“The payments will be made in euros and then transferred by Gazprombank into a so-called K account,” said German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, whose country is hugely dependent on Russian gas.

“That’s the path that we’re taking, that’s the path that Europe has shown us, that is the path that’s compatible with sanctions,” he added.

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EurActiv, 29 Apr 2022: Europe struggles for clarity on Russia’s roubles-for-gas scheme