https://oilprice.com-By RFE/RL staff
Several leaders from European Union members have scoffed at Russia’s demand that some “unfriendly” countries will be forced to pay for its natural gas and oil in rubles, saying the move is a breach of contract.
In a move seen aimed at bolstering Russia’s beleaguered currency in the face of crippling economic and financial penalties over its invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will no longer accept payments in dollars or euros, what he called “compromised currencies” from countries that have imposed the sanctions.
While Putin did not name any countries, it is understood the policy would target Britain, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United States, and members of the European Union.
“This would be a unilateral decision and a clear breach of contract, and it would be an attempt to circumvent the sanctions,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the start of an EU summit in Brussels on March 24.
“We will not allow our sanctions to be circumvented…the time when energy could be used to blackmail us is over,” she added.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, prompting the sanctions and global condemnation.
The sanctions have sent the Russian currency into freefall, while cutting Russia out of international money transfers and freezing its foreign currency abroad.
Putin gave the government and central bank one week to figure out the details on moving operations into the ruble, with energy giant Gazprom charged with making the corresponding changes to contracts.
Russian gas accounts for around 40 percent of Europe’s total consumption. Daily EU gas imports from Russia this year have varied between 200 million euros to 800 million euros.
“This is basically a breach of contract, this is important to understand,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said of Putin’s move.
Added Slovenian Prime Minister Janesz Jansa, “I don’t think anybody in Europe knows what rubles look like, nobody will pay in rubles.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Moscow’s demands “humiliating” and warned countries potentially affected by the move not to give in.
“If any EU country bows to Putin’s humiliating demands to pay for oil and gas in rubles, it will be like helping Ukraine with one hand and helping Russians kill Ukrainians with the other. I urge relevant countries to make a wise and responsible choice,” he said on Twitter.