European Union energy companies will pay for gas in rubles

Major energy companies in Italy, Germany and elsewhere in Europe are reportedly preparing to open accounts in Russian rubles to pay for Russian gas in a scheme that could circumvent sanctions.

Italian energy giant Eni SpA is reportedly taking steps to open a ruble-denominated account with Gazprombank, the bank of Russian energy company Gazprom, after the Russian company announced a plan that would allow companies to circumvent European Union sanctions against Russia.

The proposed scheme would see companies pay Gazprombank in euros or US dollars, which would then be converted into rubles by the bank and placed in a ruble account belonging to the buyer. The ruble account would then be used to buy Russian energy.

Eni is reportedly setting up a ruble account, which would allow it to participate in the scheme and avoid violating sanctions, Bloomberg reports.

Italy depends on gas for around half of its overall energy needs and 50% of that gas is imported from Russia, suggesting that the government may have to ration gas supplies if it does not find a way to circumvent the sanctions.

Germany, the biggest importer of Russian gas in Europe, has resisted calls for an embargo on Russian gas supplies and energy company Uniper has now said it is ready to meet Russia’s demands to pay also gas in rubles.

“We consider a payment conversion in line with the sanctions law and the Russian decree to be possible,” a company spokesperson said this week.

“For our company and for Germany as a whole, it is not possible to do without Russian gas in the short term; it would have dramatic consequences for our economy,” the spokesperson added.

RWE, Germany’s largest energy supplier, has not yet indicated whether it will also open a ruble account with Gazprombank.

Greece, another major importer of Russian gas, also claimed it would continue to buy Russian energy without violating sanctions, leading some to speculate that it would also use the Gazprombank program to carry out future shopping.

European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis spoke on the issue on Thursday, saying companies that buy Russian gas in rubles could face legal action.

“It’s a relatively complex framework,” Dombrovski said.

“So on the one hand it’s [European Union] Member States that monitor the implementation of sanctions by concrete companies in their territory. But on the other hand, as [the] European Commission, we are checking whether member states are actually applying the sanctions,” he continued.

“If we find that this is not the case, it is also possible that the European Commission will initiate infringement procedures in this regard,” he added.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or by e-mail at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com.




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