ATHENS – Refusing to explain how it can be done, Greece plans to pay Gazprom on time in May without violating European Union sanctions – although Russia said it will accept only roubles, which would breach the penalties.
Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas told Greek SKAI radio that the payment would be made but didn’t say if Greece would buckle to demands from Russian President Vladimir Putin for only roubles.
Greece, like the EU, is reliant on Russian energy for up to 40 percent of its needs and scrambled to find alternatives with Russia turning off the gas for Bulgaria and Poland in what bloc officials said was “blackmail.”
Poland and Bulgaria refused to pay in roubles and Skrekas’ non-transparency made it confusing as to how Greece could skirt the EU sanctions, pay Russia and keep the energy coming.
The penalties were imposed for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the bloc is continuing to pay gas and oil that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said is blood money financing the slaughter of thousands of civilians.
But, needing the gas, the EU is sending Russia 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion) a day for energy and after initially sending arms to Ukraine to help fight the invaders, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said no more would be provided.
Greece, which relies on Russian gas for more than 30 percent 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 May 25.
“We will pay in a way which will not violate the sanctions and safeguard our country’s energy security,” Skrekas said, adding that a secret deal was made directly with the Russian gas supplier.
“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 to come to find a joint answer.
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.