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Rubles or not? Still unclear about payment of Russian gas bill

Can gas companies now or not indirectly pay in rubles for Russian gas? A day before many gas companies have to pay the bill to the Russian gas suppliers, there is still a lot of uncertainty. According to the European Commission, it is all crystal clear, but many EU countries and European gas companies still do not know where they stand.

A few weeks ago, Russian President Putin announced that from now on Russian gas must be paid in rubles, although contracts with European gas companies state that payment can be made in euros or dollars. Still, the gas companies seem to have found a way not to violate the sanctions rules and still pay indirectly in rubles.

For example, the Italian gas company Eni, with the permission of the Italian government, is using the route proposed by Russia. They pay the bill in euros and deposit it into an account of Gazprombank. A ruble account is then opened to which the money is transferred. With this, the company formally settles in euros, but Gazprom ultimately receives the payments in rubles.


Eni doesn’t seem to be the only company taking this route. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said today that at least half of Gazprom’s 54 European customers have already opened such a special ruble account.

The confusion over this route has to do with European sanctions against Russia. Last Friday, the Commission published a legal guide for EU countries. It states that gas companies must pay in euros if this is stated in the contract with Gazprom. After they have settled, gas companies must be able to prove that payment has been made in euros, and provide a document for this.

Pressure from Russia

A spokesman for the Commission does not understand what is so unclear: “It is not allowed under any circumstances and it is up to the Member States to ensure this.” Complying with Russia’s requirement to pay in rubles violates the sanctions, the Commission said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate said that the Dutch cabinet is still waiting for the Commission’s advice. “If there is, we will share the advice with the companies, but it is not there yet.”

Countries such as Germany and Italy have already told their gas companies that the payment route is allowed. There they are afraid that Russia will no longer supply gas if payment is not made in rubles. Nobody wants the gas tap turned off, as has already happened to Poland and Bulgaria.

It therefore remains unclear how the European gas companies will pay their bills tomorrow. The fact is that the gas reserves in Europe are still far from sufficient to make them less vulnerable to pressure from Russia. And it is precisely Russian gas that is needed to replenish gas supplies. While the responsibility for ensuring that companies comply with sanctions rests with EU countries, the question is to what extent they will actually do this in practice.

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