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on the payment of gas in rubles, Russia and the European Union defend their version

The Yamal LNG plant, Russia's second liquefied natural gas plant, in the arctic port of Sabetta (Russia), in December 2017.

Could Russian gas run out tomorrow? The question is not so incongruous as that, agrees the French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire. “There may be a situation in which tomorrow (…) there will be no more Russian gas,” he acknowledged, on March 31 in Berlin, during a press conference with his German counterpart, Robert Habeck.

From Friday 1er April, Russia will only deliver gas to European Union (EU) countries on one condition: countries considered to be “unfriendly” – that is to say opposed to the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army – will have to pay their bills in rubles for supplies, rather than in euros or dollars. In case of refusal, “ongoing contracts will be stopped”, threatened the head of the Kremlin in a televised address on Thursday.

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The measure aims in particular to support the course of the ruble, the Russian currency having collapsed after the first Western sanctions to protest against the invasion of Ukraine. The freezing of Russian assets abroad would indeed represent some 300 billion dollars (271 billion euros). Or a little less than half of the reserves of the Russian central bank.

Gazprombank, a very useful intermediary

As designed by the Kremlin, the device seems to allow, in reality, each protagonist to come to terms with his own interpretation of the situation. And for good reason, the Kremlin provides two separate accounts for importing companies. An account to make their payment in their native currency; and another account to convert all that into rubles, through Gazprombank, the banking institution of Russian energy company Gazprom, which has so far escaped European sanctions. “For whoever receives the Russian gas, who pays for the deliveries, there is in fact no change. They just acquire rubles for the amount of currency that is provided for in the contract”assured Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin, Thursday.

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This semblance of compromise can give rise to paradoxical communications, with everyone trying to keep up appearances. On the one hand, while ensuring that he remains a reliable supplier, Vladimir Putin highlights his decree. On the other hand, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, recalls that“it is written in the contracts that payments are made in euros and sometimes in dollars”. And to add: “I made it clear to the Russian president that it would stay that way. (…) Companies want to be able to pay in euros and will do so. »

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