According to persons familiar with the situation, Italian oil company Eni SpA is preparing to create ruble accounts at Gazprombank JSC, allowing it to potentially comply with Russian demands that gas be paid for in local currency.
The decision is preventive while Eni seeks clarification from the Italian government and European authorities on whether – and under what terms – it may use the accounts to purchase Russian gas, according to the individuals.
On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advised businesses against caving in to Russia's requests for payment in rubles, claiming that doing so would violate sanctions. However, Europe's attempts to maintain an unified front against Moscow are eroding.
According to a source close to Russian gas giant Gazprom PJSC, four European purchasers have paid in rubles and ten more have created Gazprombank accounts to comply with the new payment requirements. Uniper SE, a significant German purchaser of Russian gas, has stated that it believes it can continue to do so without breaking sanctions.
Several European Union member states are pressing the organization for more specific instructions, claiming that the bloc's present policy is too unclear, according to sources involved with the negotiations. Numerous nations have asked the commission to explain that purchasers have no option but to comply with the Kremlin's requests.
The EU has stated that paying in rubles would violate sanctions – and would bolster Russia's position. However, corporations continue to look for methods to keep the gas flowing, and the bloc's norms appear to encourage this.
Last Monday, a Q&A stated that businesses should continue to pay in euros, but highlighted that the Russian regulation did not prevent exclusions. It advised businesses to contact Moscow to clarify that payment in euros was still available. Eni is also seeking clarification on the criteria and would abide by any consequences imposed.
As payment deadlines approach in the next month, countries will have to decide whether to comply with Vladimir Putin's demands or face domestic gas rationing. Poland has refused to accept the new requirements, prompting Gazprom to suspend gas supplies on Wednesday. Since its inception, the bloc has been split between nations such as Poland who take a more aggressive stance toward Russia and others that prioritize energy security.
On Thursday, gas prices fell as traders reviewed the possibility of the shutdown spreading to the rest of Europe.
Eni, for its part, has not utilised the new procedure and has instead paid in euros, according to the sources. Payments for the following cycle are not due until the second part of May.
Italy imports almost 40% of its gas from Russia, however Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been exploring the world for alternatives and has negotiated new deals with suppliers, mainly in North Africa.
Eni's spokesperson declined to comment.
By fLEXI tEAM