European energy companies that comply with Moscow’s requirement to open a rouble-based account with Gazprombank would be violating sanctions against Russia, EU officials have warned.
Several European companies have indicated they will comply with the March 31 decree by president Vladimir Putin to introduce a two-tiered payment system.
The system involves paying in euros or dollars into a Gazprombank account and then converting the cash into roubles in a second account in Russia.
“If companies pay in euros, they are not in breach of the sanctions,” said an EU official on Thursday. “What we cannot accept is that companies are obliged to open a second account in roubles and that the payment is complete only when payment is converted into roubles.”
The official said such a system was “in clear breach of the sanctions”.
Since the first days of the Ukraine invasion, the EU has prohibited transactions with Russia’s central bank, in a bid to hamper Putin’s capacity to finance his war.
By having the gas payments cleared only when they are converted into roubles, Moscow is seeking to have European companies circumvent the sanctions, the official said.
Under EU law, member states are responsible for the enforcement of the sanctions. The official said the European Commission was in consultation with national authorities and gas providers to ensure compliance.
This story is developing . . .