MILAN (Reuters) -Italian energy group Eni will open bank accounts this week to pay for Russian gas after clarification that such a move will not breach sanctions, two sources said on Monday.
In updated guidance on Friday, the European Commission confirmed its previous advice that EU sanctions do not prevent companies from following Russia’s payment procedures which involve opening an account at a designated Russian bank.
It said companies can pay for Russian gas – so long as they do so in the currency agreed in their existing contracts and declare the transaction completed when that currency is paid.
“The clarified guidelines have given a green light for Eni,” one of the sources said.
Last week sources told Reuters Eni would begin the process of opening an account in roubles this week to pay for Russian gas unless told that would breach sanctions.
The updated guidance has essentially offered Eni assurances nothing contrary is in its way, the second source said.
Earlier on Monday, Germany’s RWE said it had opened an account in Russia to pay for gas in euros.
“Eni is still carrying out its assessments and at the moment has not started any procedure to open two accounts,” an Eni spokesman said.
Eni, one of Europe’s biggest importers of Russian gas, faces a deadline to pay Russia’s state-owned Gazprom around May 20.
Under the new Russian payment system, introduced in response to sweeping Western sanctions imposed after Moscow invaded Ukraine, buyers are obliged to deposit euros or dollars into an account at private Russian bank Gazprombank.
The bank will then convert the cash into roubles, place the proceeds in another account owned by the foreign buyer and transfer the payment in Russian currency to Gazprom.
Italy, which last year sourced around 40% of its gas from Russia, is scrambling to find alternative supplies.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Angelo Amante and Cynthia Osterman)