The move came as Russia invaded Ukraine, and fears erupted in Brussels over energy companies and countries circumventing sanctions against Russia. Gazprom is a Russian state-owned energy company, and it cut natural gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland because the nations refused to pay in rubles. Vladimir Putin demanded that they be paid in rubles because of Western support for Ukraine.
Europe imports around 40% of natural gas from Russia, and pressure is mounting on them to find alternative suppliers. An unnamed EU official said the move was a revelation to people who thought the gas would not be used as leverage by Russia.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, accused Russia of blackmailing the bloc. Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia does not exploit gas and is a reliable partner for natural gas supply. He declined to say how many countries agreed to pay in rubles.
There could be increased pressure if Gazprom does not supply natural gas to other countries in the European Union. Russia has warned that other countries will face the same action if they don’t pay in roubles. The executive branch of the EU, the commission, opposes the measures taken by Russia because it would be in violation of the sanctions at the moment.
The commission is trying to be less dependent on Russian gas and has signed an agreement with the United States. It will see the EU obtain a minimum of 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas in liquefied form in 2022.
Von der Leyen said he was working with member states to source gas from other partners. Brussels, on the other hand, must decide how it will pay for natural gas to Russia without having to break the rules of the bloc.
In March, Russia issued a decree stipulating that European companies should pay Gazprombank for gas in euros. This is because it is not part of the European sanctions. The money would then be converted into rubles.
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