MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Moscow’s demand that Europe switch to paying for gas in rubles should not mean contracts would be on worse terms.
Putin said last week that Moscow will now only accept rubles as payment for natural gas deliveries to “unfriendly” countries, which include the EU.
“The decision taken should not lead to worsening of contractual terms for European importer companies of Russian gas,” the Kremlin said in a statement summarising Putin’s comments in a phone conversation with Scholz.
Putin said the payment method was needed because the Russian central bank’s currency reserves have been frozen by the EU.
The leaders agreed that experts from each country would hold discussions, the Kremlin said.
The Kremlin statement came after Germany on Wednesday raised the alert level under its emergency gas plan over fears that Russia could cut off supplies if Western countries refused to make payments in rubles.
Austria announced that it was following suit.
Speaking on behalf of the G7 energy ministers, Germany’s Robert Habeck said Monday that Russia’s request was a “unilateral and clear breach of the existing agreements”.
Habeck said payments in rubles were “unacceptable” and called on energy companies not to comply with Putin’s demand.
The Kremlin said Wednesday that Russia will not immediately require its natural gas buyers to pay in rubles.
“Payments and deliveries are a time-consuming process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“It’s not like … what will be delivered tomorrow, must be paid for by the evening.”
On Thursday, the Russian government, its central bank and energy giant Gazprom are expected to present Putin with a system that will allow gas payment to be conducted in rubles.
The Kremlin suggested it could extend the ruble payment measure to other exports.
“This is an area in which our government is also working,” Peskov added.