Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that countries considered “unfriendly” will have to pay for Russian gas in rubles from Friday, otherwise they will be deprived of supplies. France is preparing for a halt in deliveries.
The countries concerned “must open ruble accounts in Russian banks. And from these accounts they will have to pay for the gas delivered and that as of tomorrow”, declared Vladimir Putin on television, adding that in the event of refusal, “the current contracts will be stopped”.
The list of “unfriendly” countries published by Moscow in early March includes the United States, members of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Korea, Norway, etc. and Australia.
The Russian president recalled that this measure was a response to the freezing of some 300 billion dollars of foreign currency reserves that Russia had abroad, a sanction decided by the West in retaliation for the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
“Contracts are contracts”
Germans and French immediately let it be known that they would continue to pay for gas in euros or dollars. “It is written in the contracts that the payments are made in euros and sometimes in dollars. I made it clear to the Russian president that it will stay that way,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reacted from Berlin on Thursday.
“Contracts are contracts,” added the French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire.
Consequently, the French and Germans are anticipating a stoppage of gas deliveries from Russia. “It is up to us to prepare these scenarios, and we are preparing them”, declared Bruno Le Maire.
No effect on prices, according to Moscow
On March 23, Vladimir Putin demanded that gas deliveries to the EU be paid for in rubles, but without setting an ultimatum. It is now done.
According to the Kremlin, paying in rubles will have no effect on volumes or prices, even though these are formulated in most contracts in foreign currencies.
So far, the war in Ukraine has not interrupted the supply of Russian gas to Europe. As a reminder, 45% of EU gas imports come from Russia. A dependency which the Twenty-Seven seek to get rid of.