EU Warns Companies Would Break Sanctions with Ruble Payments

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned companies that bending to Moscow’s demands to pay for gas in rubles would be a breach of sanctions.

“We have round about 97% of all contracts that explicitly stipulate payments in euros or dollars, so it’s very clear. The request from the Russian side to pay in rubles is a unilateral decision and not according to the contracts,” she said.

“Companies with such contracts should not accede to the Russian demands. This would be a breach of the Russian sanctions,” she added.

Earlier, she had accused Russia of using natural gas supplies as an “instrument of blackmail” following Gazprom’s decision to halt exports to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday. Warsaw and Sofia failed to pay for Russian gas deliveries in April in rubles, Russia’s state-owned energy corporation explained.

In a statement released on Wednesday, von der Leyen claimed that the “announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail”.

The Commission president went on to describe the decision as “unjustified and unacceptable”, noting that it further highlighted the “unreliability of Russia as a gas supplier”.

Brussels has been “working to ensure alternative deliveries and the best possible storage levels across the EU”, von der Leyen insisted.

The EU leader stated that contingency plans had been developed for such a scenario in EU member states and that “international partners” could help the EU “secure alternative flows”, without providing specifics.

Von der Leyen’s “gas blackmail” allegation echoes comments made on Wednesday by the Polish and Bulgarian prime ministers.

On Wednesday morning, Gazprom announced a complete halt in gas exports to Bulgaria and Poland, citing the two countries’ failure to make payments in rubles for the fuel delivered in April. The Russian energy giant made it clear that a resumption of gas supplies would only occur when Sofia and Warsaw comply with the payment scheme proposed by Russia.

Gazprom also warned that should Bulgaria and Poland start siphoning off Russian transit gas intended for other countries, the Russian company would reduce supplies by the amount Sofia and Warsaw have illegally withheld.

In late March, President Vladimir Putin required states which have imposed sanctions on Russia, and are still importing its gas, to make payments for the fuel in the Russian national currency. Several buyers have since signaled that they are ready to accept Moscow’s demands.