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Greece to pay Gazprom without breaching sanctions against Russia

Greece to pay Gazprom without breaching sanctions against Russia

Greece plans to pay Russian gas supplier Gazprom next month in a way that will not breach European Union sanctions against Russia, the country’s energy minister said on Thursday.

Gazprom said on Wednesday it had halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland after they refused to pay in roubles, marking the Kremlin’s toughest retaliation yet over international sanctions following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Greece, which relies on Russian gas for more than 30% of its annual needs, has a supply contract with Gazprom that ends in 2026. The next payment from Greece’s main gas utility DEPA to Gazprom for April’s gas supplies is due on May 25, Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas told Greek Skai radio, without clarifying in what currency the payment would be made.

“We will pay in a way which will not violate the sanctions and safeguard our country’s energy security,” Skrekas said. “Gazprom has proposed a way of payment. This has legal, financial and political aspects. We’ve been assessing all these aspects,” he said, urging an EU energy ministers meeting next week to reach a joint response on the issue.

Under the new Russian payment system, buyers would deposit euros or dollars into an account at Gazprombank, which would convert them into roubles, place them into another account owned by the foreign buyer and transfer the payment in Russian currency to Gazprom.

The plan has left EU member states divided. Greek government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou said on Thursday that converting euros to roubles was a technical issue.

“We have been paying in euros and we will be paying in euros. How they will be converted into roubles is an issue which will be clarified,” he told a regular press briefing. “I believe the process will be crystal clear by the end of May when we need to make the payment to Gazprom.”