Ten more European gas buyers have opened accounts in Russia’s Gazprombank, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing sources close to Gazprom. That has doubled the total number of clients preparing to pay in rubles for Russian natural gas in compliance with Moscow’s demand.
According to the sources, a total of 20 European companies have opened accounts in the Russian bank, with another 14 clients asking for the paperwork needed to set them up. They declined to identify the companies.
In late March, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that buyers from ‘unfriendly states’ that have targeted the Russian economy with sanctions, pay for gas in rubles or be cut off, starting from the date payments are due for April.
Under the new payment mechanism, clients have to open two accounts – one in foreign currency and one in rubles in Gazprombank. Buyers deposit their currency of choice in a foreign currency account, then the Russian bank converts the currency into rubles for payment to Gazprom.
A person close to Gazprom told Bloomberg the current terms mean that the transaction is effectively completed once the buyer pays foreign currency to Gazprombank, since the subsequent conversion to rubles is automatic and doesn’t involve Russia’s central bank, which is subject to European sanctions.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday that companies will be able to pay for gas in rubles without breaching sanctions. “Most of the gas importers have already opened their account in rubles with Gazprom,” he told a press conference, adding that Germany’s top gas importer had already paid in rubles.
The person close to Gazprom said the number of customers who have paid in rubles remains at four, the same as late last month. Payments from other buyers are due later this month, he added.
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