The European Union refuses to pay for gas in rubles and is preparing to break away from Moscow

European energy ministers, urgently meeting in Brussels, spoke of a gradual halt to oil purchases from Russia as part of the sixth package of sanctions against Moscow.

After an emergency meeting of the 27 energy ministers in Brussels, the European Commission and the French presidency of the Council warned that the European Union refuses to pay for its gas purchases from Russia in rubles, and must prepare for the interruption of its supplies. Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said Moscow’s request to pay for purchases in rubles was “a unilateral and unjustified contract modification and it is legitimate to reject it.”

“97% of contracts (concluded by European companies) specify the currency of payment which is either the euro or the dollar,” she said.

Kadri Simson said that he had no knowledge of opening accounts in rubles. She emphasized that “the payments are scheduled in mid-May and the majority of companies will respect the contract rules.” The French Minister of Environmental Transformation, Barbara Pompele, chair of the meeting, confirmed the “readiness to honor contracts.” “We must prepare for the suspension of supplies,” the European commissioner warned.

‘No immediate risks’

Several member states have asked for clarification on paying in rubles by opening a special account, and Kadri-Simson promised “a detailed clarification to explain to companies what they can and cannot do.” Poland and Bulgaria paid their purchases in the currency stipulated in their contracts with the Russian gas giant Gazprom, and refused to open a second account in rubles. In response, the Russian gas company stopped deliveries, considering that payment had not been made.

“There are no immediate risks to the supply,” the commissioner emphasized. “But we will not be able to replace 150 billion cubic meters of gas purchased from Russia by other sources. This is not sustainable,” she acknowledged. “We can manage to replace two-thirds of Russian gas supplies,” she said. Kadri Simson insisted that member states should fill their reserves, and Barbara Bombely emphasized the need to “diversify the way electricity and heating are produced.”

“Europe must get rid of dependence on Russian fossil fuels,” said Polish Minister Anna Moskowa. “Our reserves will reach 100% capacity for this winter,” she said. She explained that “American liquefied natural gas has begun to arrive through Lithuania, and we will supply gas from Norway through Denmark.”

The ministers also exchanged a phased moratorium on purchases of Russian oil and petroleum products planned by the European Union in order to dry up European funding for the Kremlin-led war in Ukraine. But no decision has been taken. “A new sanctions package is being prepared, but that was not the topic of the meeting,” said Barbara Bombelli. “We are working on a new sanctions package,” Commissioner Simpson confirmed.

Sixth Sanctions Package

College meeting [l’ensemble des commissaires, ndlr] She indicated that it will be held on Tuesday in Strasbourg “on the sidelines of the parliament session”, and President Ursula von der Leyen will determine what was decided.” A European source told AFP, “I think that tomorrow (Tuesday) the Commission will propose a sixth sanctions package, including the withdrawal of Russian oil German Minister Robert Habeck said.

The proposal will be submitted to Member States for adoption on Wednesday. The German minister said, however, “I don’t know if this will be possible by the end of the week.” A European official said that if the 27 countries agree to this measure, the halt to purchases of oil and petroleum products from Russia will be gradual, over a period of six to eight months, but with measures with immediate effect, in particular a tax on tanker transportation.

The European Union has already imposed a ban on Russian coal and closed its ports to Russian ships, except for the transport of hydrocarbons. The main importers of fossil fuels from Russia (gas, crude oil, petroleum products, coal) are Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France.

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