Putin agreed Austria can pay for gas in euros – Chancellor
Following his visit to Moscow, earlier this week, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin assured him that gas will continue to be delivered to the country and that Vienna will be allowed to continue paying for it in euros.
“Putin told me that the gas supply is safe, that Russia will deliver the contractually agreed quantities and that payments can continue to be made in euros,” Nehammer told Austrian APA and German DPA news agencies on Wednesday.
The chancellor also noted that Austria, which still gets 80% of its gas from Russia, opposes an immediate EU gas embargo on Moscow, arguing that it is simply not possible at the moment and would mean that both Austrian industry and households would suffer serious harm, while not having much of an effect on Russia.
“You know, there is a decision in the EU that we must try everything to become independent from Russian gas. And this is also the will of Austria, for sure. But it is not possible now. It will take time,” said Nehammer in an interview with CNN after his visit to Moscow.
“Austria stands strong with the other EU member states with the sanctions against the Russian Federation, but sanctions must hurt Russia more than the European Union,” he stated.
Earlier this month, Austria’s top energy company stated it would be “impossible” to stop buying Russian gas this year, as the country had no access to alternative sources of energy, since neither the US nor Qatar produce enough liquefied natural gas (LNG) to replace Russian imports and there are simply not enough ships and terminals in the EU to accept deliveries of it. The EU currently imports 40-45% of all its natural gas from Russia, which is used for heating as well as for industrial purposes.
On March 31, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that requires payments for Russian gas to be made in rubles starting from April 1. The measure specifically concerns “unfriendly countries” that have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian conflict and frozen a large part of Moscow’s foreign reserves. The Kremlin has warned that failure to pay for gas would mean that no new deliveries would be made.
Russia has instructed buyers of its fuel in “unfriendly nations” to open euro and ruble accounts in Moscow’s Gazprombank. The payments for gas would be delivered to a euro account, after which the bank would exchange them into rubles. Only then would the payment be considered complete.
Many EU states have rejected the scheme, however Hungary has agreed to abide by the new rules.