Vienna OMV insists it is not violating EU sanctions by opening Gazprombank account
Austrian oil and gas conglomerate OMV said on Friday it had opened an account with Gazprombank to pay for Russian gas imports, insisting the program does not violate the current EU embargo against Moscow. Austria imports about 80% of its gas from Russia.
“We have implemented a payment process that does not violate sanctions and ensures timely payments for gas supplies,” an OMV spokesperson told Reuters on Friday evening. “We consider our payment obligations fulfilled with the transfer of the euro amount.”
Faced with a ban on exchanging euros and dollars, Moscow introduced a new gas payment mechanism from “hostile” country at the end of March. Countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia must open accounts with Gazprombank, where payments in the currency of their choice will be converted into rubles for final payment. As of May 12, a total of 20 European companies had opened such accounts.
Some, like Finland, refused – and will therefore be cut by Saturday, Moscow has confirmed.
Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Bulgaria, the UK, Slovenia and the Baltic states are among the countries that have publicly refused the new payment mechanism. Russia will not provide free natural gas to countries that refuse to honor the new payment mechanism, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
“Obviously no one is going to provide anything to anyone for free,” Peskov told reporters.
While the US has urged EU countries to switch from Russian imports to the much rarer and more expensive US liquefied natural gas (LNG), for many countries this is simply not an option.
“Austria is 80% dependent on Russian gas. As painful as it is, a gas embargo is currently not possible for us, nor for some other countries. The essence of sanctions is to let us last longer than [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, and we can’t do this without gas,” Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler said in an interview last month.
Anti-Russian embargoes have already caused the cost of living to rise sharply in the EU, with Austria recording the highest inflation in 40 years in April 2022.
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