Italian energy company Eni will open a ruble-denominated account at Gazprombank as a precaution to ensure its next payment for Russian gas due in “the next few days” goes through, the company said Tuesday.
The European Commission warned Tuesday that doing so would breach EU sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Eni’s announcement comes after the Commission on Monday sent countries updated sanctions guidance, which does not explicitly forbid opening a ruble account; the Kremlin has demanded that buyers convert gas payments into Russian currency.
The company added it rejected a request by Russian supplier Gazprom Export to modify its existing long-term supply contract. Last month Poland’s PGNiG and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz rejected similar requests, leading Gazprom to stop deliveries.
“The Company is going to temporarily open the two accounts” — one in euros and one in rubles — “without prejudice to its contractual rights, which still envisage payment in euros,” Eni said.
Eni said both Gazprom Export and the Russian authorities have confirmed that payment obligations will be considered complete with the initial deposit in euros, and that the currency conversion will occur within 48 hours without any involvement from the sanctioned Russian Central Bank.
The company said it was acting “in compliance with the current international sanctions framework.”
But a Commission spokesperson said Tuesday that opening a second ruble-denominated account with Gazprombank “goes beyond what we said was allowed in the guidance given to member states.”
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