Poland urges penalties for states paying for Russian gas in rubles

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Countries that use rubles to pay for Russian gas should be penalized by the European Union, Poland’s climate minister urged on Thursday.

Anna Moskwa’s call came a day after Moscow’s decision to cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to do so.

Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that buyers from “unfriendly” countries pay for gas in rubles or be cut off, starting from the date payments are due for April.

EU member states appear split on how they can keep paying for gas without breaching European sanctions imposed over Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Many nations in Europe remain heavily reliant on Russian energy imports.

Poland, one of the EU’s staunchest proponents of punitive sanctions against Moscow, says the bloc should ban purchases of Russian gas altogether.

“Today what is missing is full sanctions on gas, that would solve the problem with Gazprom, the problem with following sanctions 100%. We expect these sanctions,” Anna Moskwa told private broadcaster Polsat News late on Wednesday.

The main EU member states resisting tougher gas sanctions on Russia are Austria, Germany and Hungary, she added.

“We are counting on there being consequences for these countries (which pay in rubles) and that as a result they will cease paying in rubles.”

She did not specify what kind of consequences Poland wanted to see.

Russia’s new gas payments system, involving opening accounts at Gazprombank where payments in euros or dollars would be converted to rubles, offers wiggle room that could see some countries continue to buy Russian gas, fraying the bloc’s united front against Moscow.

German power utility Uniper told the newspaper Rheinische Post on Thursday that it would transfer payments for Russian gas to a Russian bank and no longer to a Europe-based bank.

Separately, senior officials on Thursday said EU countries all agree that they will not pay Russia directly in rubles for their imports of gas, noting that the deadline for next payments was expected to be May 20.

“What we do know, and there is consensus on this from all member states, is that none is willing to pay” in rubles, the official told a news briefing, adding that the European Commission did not have an overview of how many buyers have opened accounts for gas payments with Gazprombank.


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