The Russian gas giant Gazprom announced on Tuesday the interruption from Wednesday of gas deliveries to several European customers - the list of which is growing - having refused to pay in rubles, a dispute arising from the Russian military offensive against Ukraine .
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In response to the sanctions imposed by the European Union following the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that buyers of Russian gas from "unfriendly" countries pay in rubles from accounts in Russia under penalty of be deprived of supplies, despite contracts providing for payments in euros or dollars.
Gazprom announced on Tuesday morning that it had "completely ceased its gas deliveries to the company GasTerra B.V. (Netherlands) due to non-payment in rubles".
GasTerra had refused, demanding compliance with contractual obligations and noting that payments such as the Kremlin demanded presented “a risk of violation of the sanctions drawn up by the EU”.
In the evening, Gazprom added that deliveries to Ørsted and Shell Energy Export would be interrupted from Wednesday for the same reason.
Gazprom said it had been informed by the two companies that they "did not intend to make payments in rubles for the gas supplied", and had in turn notified them of "the suspension of gas deliveries (...) from June 1” except receipt of payments in rubles.
“Shell has not accepted the new payment terms set by Gazprom,” a Shell spokesman told AFP. “We will strive to continue to supply our customers in Europe through our diversified gas supply portfolio. Shell continues to work on a phased withdrawal of Russian hydrocarbons”.
Russia had already cut off gas for the same reason to Finland, Bulgaria and Poland.
The Dutch depend on Russia for around 15% of their gas supplies, or some six billion cubic meters a year.
The Russian energy giant's decision means that two billion cubic meters of gas will not be supplied to the Netherlands by October, GasTerra had warned, adding that it had "anticipated this by buying gas elsewhere".
In Denmark, gas represents 18% of the energy consumed each year, three quarters coming from national production.
Agreement on an oil embargo
The European Commission rejects the payment of gas in rubles, as demanded by the Kremlin, considering that it is a violation of the sanctions. Energy companies are required to respect the payment conditions of contracts concluded with Gazprom (97% provide for payment in dollars or euros), under the control of the Member States.
The European Union reached an agreement on an oil embargo against Moscow on Monday evening, which should allow them to reduce their imports of Russian oil by some 90% by the end of the year in order to dry up the financing of the war carried out by Moscow in Ukraine.
The EU is now reluctant to consider sanctions targeting Russian gas, on which it is even more dependent.
According to several analysts interviewed by AFP, this oil embargo should have a very relative impact on the Russian economy.
“Russia has diversified its energy relations since 2014, particularly in Asia. The EU did not. And Russia has been very proactive over the past two months to find additional buyers for its oil, even though they are selling at a discount, it is still more expensive than in recent years due to rising oil prices” , told AFP Chris Weafer, founder of the analysis firm Macro-Advisory.
According to him, it is sanctions against gas that would really hurt Russia, which does not have as many alternatives in terms of outlets as for oil.
In 2021, Russia supplied 30% of crude and 15% of petroleum products purchased by the EU. It supplies 150 billion m3 of gas annually, or 40% of EU imports.
The EU, which has already decided to do without Russian coal from August, has found other suppliers in the United States for a third of its Russian gas purchases.