BERLIN (Reuters) – European energy firms can open special accounts with Gazprombank to pay for Russian gas, a key demand by Moscow, without breaching sanctions if transferring euros or dollars to them fulfils their contractual obligations, the German Economy Ministry said.
Russia cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland this week for failing to pay in roubles, raising fears that other countries could be next.
Moscow’s decree says Gazprombank would open special “K” type accounts for gas payments from foreign buyers. An EU company would transfer foreign currency into one such account, and then a Russian bank would convert the payment to roubles and transfer the roubles to another “K” account belonging to Gazprom.
European Union countries remain divided over whether sanctions would be broken if they engage with Russia’s roubles payment demand.
Russia’s decree said the buyer’s obligation would be considered fulfilled only when the roubles arrived in Gazprom’s account.
“There are European guidelines on payment modalities, which form the framework for us and which we adhere to,” a spokesperson for Germany’s Economy Ministry said on Friday in an e-mailed statement.
“According to these guidelines, account K, to which payment is made in euros/dollars, is in line with the sanctions if companies declare that contracts have been fulfilled with payment in euros or dollars.”
A government source said that it was irrelevant in which country the K account is opened as long as the bank in question was not on any sanctions list.
The European Commission will provide EU countries with extra guidance on whether they can keep paying for Russian gas without breaching the bloc’s sanctions, a Commission official told Reuters on Friday.
(Reporting by Markus Wacket; writing by Riham Alkousaa and Christoph Steitz; editing by Paul Carrel and Jason Neely)