More and more major European importers of Russian gas seem willing to open an account with Gazprombank to be able to pay for gas from Russia in rubles.
With that step, they could secure the continuation of the supply of Russian gas, but it is still questionable to what extent the European Commission will allow all this.
Bloomberg news agency has heard from insiders that the Italian energy group Eni is working on an account with Gazprombank. According to the business newspaper Financial Times, the Austrian OMV is doing the same. Earlier, Bloomberg said that at least four European companies would have paid with rubles and that ten companies had already opened accounts with Gazprombank.
Uniper, the largest German importer of Russian gas and owner of power plants in the Netherlands, indicated that it wanted to make use of the option because it would then be able to continue making its payments in euros. Under the Russian scheme, a company opens a euro account and a ruble account with Gazprombank. That bank is then responsible for converting the amount deposited in euros into rubles.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned that European companies violate EU sanctions if they pay for their purchases in rubles. It is contractually stipulated that the bill must be paid in euros or dollars. However, she reiterated on Wednesday that European companies should not bow to Russian pressure to pay in rubles.
According to the committee, companies are allowed to cooperate with the Russian scheme as long as they make it clear that they have fulfilled their obligations with the payment in euros or dollars. The exchange for rubles is then entirely up to the Russians. But there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the issue. Brussels is expected to provide more explanation later in the day.