Annie is about to open a ruble account for Russian gas

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MILAN – Italian power group Annie has begun the process of opening two accounts to pay for Russian gas, one in euros and the other in rubles, as it seeks to maintain supplies without violating sanctions.

The Italian power group, one of Europe’s largest importers of Russian gas, said on Tuesday that the move was a precautionary measure and followed Gazprom’s unilateral request to amend existing agreements under a new gas payment scheme.

“The company is going to temporarily open two accounts without any prejudice to its contractual rights, which are still considering paying in euros,” Annie said in a statement.

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State-controlled Anne said the decision was made in consultation with the Italian government and in accordance with sanctions.

Annie faces a deadline to pay Russian state-owned Gazprom around May 20, after Moscow began paying foreign buyers for gas in rubles at the end of March or risking losing supplies.

Unipar, Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas, said on Tuesday it was transferring the euro to an account at Gazprom Bank to comply with Moscow’s demands, but did not mention a separate ruble account.

Like Peer RWE, Unipar faces a payment deadline at the end of May but has not set a date.

Arbitration process

Countries and companies have for weeks sought clarification from the European Commission on how they can proceed with payments without violating sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Annie said that at the request of the European Commission, it had made it clear from the outset to Gazprom that it was satisfied with its obligations to transfer the euro.

Without further elaboration from Gazprom, Annie further stated that it plans to initiate an international arbitration under Swedish law in accordance with the current agreement to resolve the uncertainty of the change of payments.

In an update on Friday, the commission confirmed in its earlier advice that companies could still pay for Russian gas, unless they do so in the currency agreed to in their existing contract and declare the transaction complete if the currency is paid.

EU sanctions do not bar companies from opening accounts in a designated bank, it added.

However, a spokesman for the European Commission said on Tuesday that opening a ruble account at Gazprom Bank would violate EU sanctions.

In a statement, Annie said it was “a clearing point agent operating on the Moscow Stock Exchange” and would be converted into rubles within 48 hours without any involvement from Russia’s central bank. (Reporting by Stephen Jukes; Additional report by Christoph Staitz; Editing by Keith Weir and Ed Osmond)

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