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Russia won’t supply gas for free: Kremlin

Russia says it will not supply gas to Europe for free as it works out methods for accepting payments for its gas exports in roubles but G7 countries have refused the demand.

At a meeting of European Union leaders on Friday, no common position emerged on Russia’s demand last week that “unfriendly” countries must pay in roubles, not euros, for its gas after the United States and European allies teamed up on a series of sanctions aimed at Russia.

Concerns over security of supply were enhanced after the demand, with companies and EU members scrambling to understand the ramifications.

The Russian central bank, the government and Gazprom, which accounts for 40 per cent of European gas imports, should present their proposals for rouble gas payments to President Vladimir Putin by March 31.

“We are not going to supply gas for free, this is clear,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call.

“In our situation, this is hardly possible and appropriate to engage in charity (with European customers).”

Russia will take decisions in due course should European countries refuse to pay in the Russian currency, he added.

Meanwhile, energy ministers from the G7 industrialised countries rejected the rouble payment demands, Germany economy and climate protection minister Robert Habeck said after talks with his counterparts.

“All G7 ministers have agreed that this is a unilateral and clear breach of existing contracts,” he told reporters after a virtual conference with G7 energy ministers.

The ministers “underlined once again that the concluded contracts are valid and the companies should and must respect them… payment in roubles is unacceptable, and we call on the companies concerned not to comply with Putin’s demand,” he said.

The EU aims to cut its dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end Russian fossil fuel imports by 2027.

Russian gas exports to the EU were about 155 billion cubic metres (bcm) last year.

On Friday, the United States said it will work to supply 15 bcm of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the EU this year.

US LNG plants are producing at full capacity and analysts say most of any additional US gas sent to Europe would have to come from exports that would have gone elsewhere.

Germany’s Habeck said if Russia stops gas deliveries “we are prepared for all scenarios and not only since yesterday”.

Russian gas deliveries to Europe on three main pipeline routes were stable on Monday morning, with the Yamal-Europe pipeline continuing to flow eastwards from Germany into Poland, operator data showed.

Russia’s Gazprom said it that it was continuing to supply natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

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