EU says using Russian rubles payment scheme would breach sanctions
Using Moscow's proposed scheme for foreign companies to pay for gas by enabling Russia to convert their payments into rubles would breach European Union sanctions, the bloc's energy policy chief said on Monday (May 2).
"Paying rubles through the conversion mechanism managed by the Russian public authorities and a second dedicated account in Gazprombank is a violation of the sanctions and cannot be accepted," EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson told a news conference after a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels.
The Estonian member of the EU executive added that there was "no immediate risk for Europe's security of supply" after Russia cut gas supply to Bulgaria and Poland last week for refusing to comply with its payment scheme.
Moscow has said foreign gas buyers must deposit euros or dollars into an account at privately-owned Russian bank Gazprombank, which would convert them into rubles.
French Environment Minister, Barbara Pompili, whose country currently chairs the Council of the European Union, said a regional task force would be set up to deal with the energy situation in the two former Warsaw Pact members.
"Russia's unilateral decision only reinforces the need to reduce our fossil fuel imports from Russia as has been recorded at the summit of heads of state and government in Versailles," the French minister said.
The comments came as the European Commission is expected to propose the sixth package of EU sanctions this week against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including an embargo on buying Russian oil - a measure that would deprive Moscow of a large revenue stream, but that has so far divided EU countries.
Russia supplies 40% of EU gas and 26% of its oil imports.