Russia warns it may cut natural gas supplies to other EU countries

London, April 27 (IANS) Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has warned that other European Union customers may be cut off from Russian natural gas supplies if they refuse to pay in rouble, The Guardian reported.

His comments came after Russia halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that European leaders denounced as “blackmail”.

In a memo, the state-controlled Russian giant Gazprom said that it was cutting Poland and Bulgaria off its natural gas supply chain because they refused to pay in Russian rouble, in line with a decree issued last month by President Vladimir Putin.

Gazprom said it did not receive any such payment since the beginning of the month.

Speaking to reporters, Peskov said: “Russia was and remains a reliable supplier of energy resources to its consumers and remains committed to its contractual obligations.

“When the payment deadlines approach, if some consumers decline to pay under the new system, the president’s decree of course will be applied.”

Asked whether Russia is ready for the budget losses it could sustain if European countries decline to pay for gas in rouble, Peskov replied, “Everything has been calculated, all risks have been forecast and necessary measures taken,” The Guardian reported.

Austria has accepted the new rouble gas payment mechanism, introduced by Russia earlier this month, and will abide by it, Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced on Wednesday.

“We, i.e., [state energy company] OMV, accepted the terms of payment, as did the German government. They [the terms] were found to be in line with the terms of the sanctions. For us, this was important,” Nehammer said at a press conference, RT reported.

He, however, added that Austria still supports Ukraine-related anti-Russia sanctions.

“Before the fake news of Russian propaganda steps in, of course, OMV continues to pay for gas supplies from Russia in euros. Austria adheres to the point of view and supports the jointly-adopted EU sanctions,” he stressed.

According to the official, Austrian oil and gas company OMV has already opened an appropriate account with a Russian bank for transferring payments.

Nehammer noted that during his recent trip to Moscow, Putin had explained the new payment mechanism and assured him of further gas supplies in full.

On March 31, Putin had signed a decree that defined a new procedure for paying for Russian gas supplies by buyers from ‘unfriendly’ countries, which placed sanctions on Moscow in response to its military operation in Ukraine.