Italian energy giant Eni has started procedures to open accounts in euros and roubles with private Russian bank Gazprombank, the company announced on Tuesday.
In April, Moscow said it would only continue gas exports in exchange for roubles in response to the West’s sanctions. The European Commission issued then the first guidance on how EU companies could continue buying Russian gas without breaching bloc sanctions but caused confusion.
“The fewer questions you ask about this topic, the better,” a diplomat representing a southern EU country told EURACTIV back then.
“Considering the imminent payment deadlines scheduled in the next few days, Eni has started precautionary procedures to open with Gazprombank the two K-denominated current accounts, one in euros and one in roubles,” the company explained, adding that the decision has been “agreed with Italian institutions.”
Eni’s announcement comes ahead of the deadline to pay the Russian company, believed to be on Friday (20 May).
Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi recently joined the government in its official visits to Algeria, Angola, Congo, and several other countries. The government signed energy agreements to diversify gas imports and find alternatives to gas flows from Russia.
However, Italy cannot curb Russian gas supplies immediately as about 40% of its total gas supplies are from Russia.
Even if Eni opened a roubles account, gas payments “will continue to be performed in euros,” the Italian state-controlled company said. In case there are delays, or technical issues come in the way of completing the conversion on time, “there will be no impact on supplies,” Eni added.
The EU executive came up with new guidelines on Tuesday (17 May) and made things clearer, stressing that “companies should make a clear statement saying that when they pay euros or dollars, they consider their obligations under existing contracts to be fulfilled”.
“It should be understood that such payments in that currency discharge definitively the economic operator from the payment obligations under those contracts, without any further actions from their side as regards the payment,” the guidance said.