Brussels, Apr 28 (EFE).- Russia’s decision to halt gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria for refusing to pay in rubles has complicated an already complex web of European sanctions imposed on the Eurasian country to protest its invasion of Ukraine.
The sanctions are designed to damage Russia economically without affecting the European Union’s Russian energy imports.
European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer said in a Monday press conference that the Commission is in constant contact with EU member states to ensure the flow of gas supplies.
Poland and Bulgaria are the first countries to have their gas exports cut off by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom after Putin signed a decree on March 31 requiring EU buyers to open both a ruble and a foreign currency account with Gazprombank to make energy purchases.
“We cannot accept that (European) companies be forced to open a second account in rubles and that the payment is completed only if it is converted (to the Russian currency),” EU sources explained, adding that going through with this process would violate the sanctions in place.
However, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, a longtime ally of Putin, has said that his country accepts the mechanism Moscow requires to purchase gas and coal.
The Italian energy company Eni is also mulling opening accounts in rubles at Gazprombank, a subsidiary of the Russian gas giant, although it explained that it is still awaiting clear guidelines from the European authorities.
A lack of clarity has confused EU buyers about what they can and cannot do, but European sources stress that making payments in euros and not opening a second account in rubles does not breach EU sanctions.
“If any company has not understood it, it is a pity,” the sources say, a day after Austrian prime minister Karl Nehammer denied the media reports saying that his country had accepted the Kremlin’s demands.
The EU is currently working on its sixth package of sanctions against Moscow amid pressures to include restrictions on purchases of Russian oil, one of the main sources of income for the Putin regime.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, EU countries have bought 44 billion euros worth of fossil fuels from Russia, 71% of all its energy sales in the last two months, according to figures by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).EFE