‘Don’t pay in rouble!’ Von der Leyen rages as Russia cuts off gas to Poland and Bulgaria

Gazprom: Ursula von der Leyen urges against paying in Rubles

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned European Union firms against paying Russia’s gas in roubles as complying with Russia’s demand would “breach” the European Union sanctions and represent “a high risk for the companies.” Her warning comes as Russia has stopped gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland – both heavy consumers of Russian gas – after both countries rejected paying in roubles. The move is described by European leaders as “blackmail”, as the EU countries alongside the US are ramping up arms shipments to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

Speaking at a press conference at the European Commission, President von der Leyen said to EU companies: “Our guidance here is very clear.” 

“To pay in roubles – if this is not foreseen in the contract – to pay in roubles is a breach of our sanctions.”

“We have about 97 percent of all contracts that explicitly stipulate payments in euros or dollars. So, it’s very clear.”

The EU has been trying to diversify its sources of gas and oil imports in a bid to wean itself off its dependency on Russian energy – all investments made to Russia are considered to fuel Putin’s war machine. In 2021, the EU imported more than 40 percent of its total gas consumption, 27 percent of oil imports and 46 percent of coal imports from Russia.

“And the request from the Russian side to pay in roubles is a unilateral decision and not according to the contracts”, added President von der Leyen, as companies complying with Russia’s demands would face “a high risk”.

“The move that Russia did today is basically a move where Russia hurts itself. The Kremlin is hurting the Russian economy because they are cutting off themselves from important revenues,” she added.

In total, Russia exports about 45,2 percent of its gas to Europe, according to Politico. And Russia’s dependency on oil and gas cash could backfire with the upcoming package EU economic sanctions.

A sixth EU package of sanctions against Russia is expected soon. It could include a ban on oil and gas, but no specifics or dates have been given.

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President Von der Leyen added: “We are working hard not only to get rid of the coal as we’ve done already but also, we’re working on the topic of oil, and you have seen today the question of gas dependency on Russia.”

Russian energy giant Gazprom said in a statement it would resume supplies to Bulgaria and Poland once payments were made in rouble.

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