A Slovakian economy minister has alleged that Italy caved to Putin’s demand and paid for Russian gas in rubles. Following a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on Monday, Richard Sulík said he assumed that Rome had submitted to Moscow’s request as Slovakia is receiving higher gas transit volumes. He said: “Since the volumes flowing through Slovakia have increased, we think that the Italians must have paid. It’s an assumption.”
But he stressed that Slovakia was even willing to do anything in its power to keep Russia’s gas flowing, even if that means breaking EU ranks.
Mr Sulík said: “I say yes to a unified EU approach, but there are more important things in this world if it starts to harm us massively.”
This comes after the Kremlin warned that “unfriendly” countries, including EU members, had until March 31 to pay for their gas in rubles or else face a supply cut.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “Payment in proper form will be the basis for the continuation of supply.”
EU leaders came together in a major show of force and agreed to reject the demand, even if it meant facing a supply cut from Russia submitting to the request would undo EU sanctions slapped on Russia for invading Ukraine.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged the European Commission on Tuesday to clarify how companies can buy Russian gas without undermining the bloc’s sanctions.
He said: “It’s very important that the Commission expresses a clear legal opinion on whether paying in rubles is a breach of sanctions or not.
“Because if there is no clarity or a line of conduct then it is clear that each company or each country will do as it believes fit.”
But if the claims that Italy has paid for gas in rubles without waiting for a response from the bloc, it is likely the EU would view this as a breach of sanctions.
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“Various possibilities and risks are being considered and we’re prepared for them.
“If it is necessary, and if such a decision is made, we’re able to cut ourselves off from the gas supplies at a moment’s notice, and we’re ready for Russian actions, including an interruption in supplies.”
But bizarrely, Bulgaria insisted that it had submitted to Russia’s terms.
The Ministry in Sofia said: “Bulgargaz received a notification today, April 26, that natural gas supplies from Gazprom Export will be suspended starting April 27.
“The Bulgarian side has fully met its obligations and has made all payments required under its current contract in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms.”
Germany has also run into problems with refusing Moscow’s demands.
The Kremlin turned down a payment for gas in euros from a German state-controlled utility last week.
The refused payment was only over a “marginal gas volume of about 0.2 percent of the Russian import volumes to Europe”, its economy ministry said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “You have to be prepared for that, and we were already prepared before the war started and we know what we have to do.”