Italian Minister of Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani told Politico on Monday that Italian companies should “go ahead and pay in rubles” for Russian gas, as Moscow has demanded. Although his ministry later said that it does not back such a move, 10 EU nations are reportedly planning to do the same.
“I think it would be good for a few months, at least, to allow companies to go ahead and pay in rubles, while we understand the legal framework and implications,” Cingolani said, adding that he wants “a speedy and very clear pronouncement from the European Commission” on whether such an arrangement would breach EU sanctions.
Shortly afterwards, Cingolani’s ministry issued a statement saying that the minister “has never been open to a payment in rubles.”
However, Italy depends on Russia for around 40% of its gas imports, and Cingolani said that while oil and gas companies “cannot risk” paying and breaking sanctions, they also “cannot risk … not paying” until recently-signed gas contracts with African countries come into effect.
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded in March that “unfriendly” countries – those that back sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine – would have to pay for gas in Russia’s national currency. Poland and Bulgaria have already been cut off after they refused this demand.