Italian energy company Eni will open a ruble account at Gazprombank as a precautionary measure to ensure that its next payment for Russian gas due in “the next few days” is made, the company said on Tuesday.
The European Commission warned on Tuesday that this would violate EU sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
Eni’s announcement comes after the Commission on Monday sent countries updated guidelines on sanctions, which do not explicitly prohibit the opening of a ruble account; the Kremlin demanded that buyers convert gas payments into Russian currency.
The company added that it had rejected a request from Russian supplier Gazprom Export to modify its existing long-term supply contract. Last month, Poland’s PGNiG and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz rejected similar demands, leading Gazprom to halt deliveries.
“The company will temporarily open the two accounts” – one in euros and the other in rubles – “without prejudice to its contractual rights, which always provide for payment in euros”, Eni said.
Eni said that Gazprom Export and the Russian authorities have confirmed that the payment obligations will be considered complete with the initial deposit in euros and that the currency conversion will take place within 48 hours without any involvement from the sanctioned Russian Central Bank.
The company said it was acting “in accordance with the current international sanctions framework”.
But a Commission spokesman said on Tuesday that opening a second ruble-denominated account with Gazprombank “goes beyond what we have said allowed in the guidelines given to member states”.
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