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German energy company Uniper has conceded to Russia’s demands and will utilize the ruble conversion plan outlined by Moscow despite concerns it will undermine sanctions.
Moscow threatened to pull the plug on Europe’s gas supply unless the companies fulfilled their payments in rubles. The Kremlin worked with Russian gas company Gazprombank to establish a system that would allow companies to deposit foreign currency in one account while Gazprom would complete the transactions in rubles.
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Uniper said Thursday that it had no choice but to use the system, and a spokesman told the BBC that he was confident the transaction still abides by EU sanctions.
“For our company and for Germany as a whole, it is not possible to do without Russian gas in the short term; this would have dramatic consequences for our economy,” the spokesman said.
Other European energy firms reportedly have planned to follow suit and utilize the Russian scheme.
The European Commission last week advised companies that Moscow’s plan may not violate sanctions, stressing that compliance would likely be necessary to fulfill contractual obligations.
The Commission initially said the program could breach sanctions, but this week advised that the proposal does not necessarily violate the sanctions, Reuters reported.
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“It would be advisable to seek confirmation from the Russian side that this procedure is possible under the rules of the decree,” a document from the Commission said, noting that companies should make clear statements that they consider contractual obligations completed when they make their deposits in the originally agreed-upon currency, almost all of which would be in dollars or euros.
Brussels also said there were options that could allow companies to continue lawfully paying for gas, but the procedure for securing exemptions is not yet clear.
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Gazprom said on Wednesday that it had shut off gas to the two EU nations in retaliation for unpaid energy bills for the month of April when they refused to abide by Moscow’s demands and pay in the Russian currency.
“The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,” EU President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
“This is unjustified and unacceptable. And it shows once again the unreliability of Russia as a gas supplier,” she added.
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Von der Leyen said that EU nations were “prepared for this scenario” and remained in close contact to identify other means of supplying Poland and Bulgaria with their energy needs.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.