on paying for 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, agrees the French Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire. “There may be a situation where tomorrow (…) there will be no more Russian gas”, recognized, on March 31 in Berlin, during a press conference with his German counterpart, Robert Habeck.

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

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The move is intended, in particular, to support the course of the ruble, the Russian currency collapsed after the first Western sanctions to protest the invasion of Ukraine. The freezing of Russian assets abroad would in effect represent some 300,000 million dollars (271,000 million 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 appears to actually allow each protagonist to come to terms with their own interpretation of the situation. And for good reason, the Kremlin provides two separate accounts for importing companies. An account to make your payment in your native currency; and another account to convert all that into rubles, through Gazprombank, the banking institution of the Russian energy company Gazprom, which has so far escaped European sanctions. “For those who receive Russian gas, who pay for deliveries, in fact there is no change. They only acquire rubles for the amount of currency provided for in the contract”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

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This appearance of compromise can lead 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. For his part, 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 I would continue like this. (…) Companies want to be able to pay in euros and they will do so. »

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