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Germany refuses to pay for Russian gas in roubles

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck called Putin’s demand for European countries to pay for gas imports from Russia in roubles an unacceptable breach of contract, amounting to “blackmail.”

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree mandating gas payments in roubles. If buyers fail to adhere, supplies will be cut, starting from Friday, April 1.

“With regard to the threat, demand or consideration – one doesn’t know what to call it anymore – to be made to pay in roubles, it is crucial for us that the contracts are respected,” said German Economy Minister Habeck during a joint press conference with his French counterpart. “It is important for us not to give a signal that we will be blackmailed by Putin.”

French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said that France and Germany were preparing for the possible scenario of Russian gas flows being halted. In fact, Germany – which relies on Russian gas the most of all European countries – triggered an emergency procedure to monitor gas imports and storage capacity on Wednesday, urging consumers and manufacturers to reduce consumption.

Minister Habeck said he and Minister Bruno Le Maire discussed possible new punitive measures on Russia, declining to go into details.

Separately, Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz said during a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer that German companies would continue to pay for Russian gas using euros as stipulated in the contracts. He also raised the possibility of new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, adding that Germany was prepared for all scenarios, including a stoppage of Russian gas flows to Europe. Scholz reiterated that Germany hoped to become independent of Russian oil and coal imports this year, but it would take longer to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

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