Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke by phone on Wednesday to discuss Moscow’s demand that Berlin pay for Russian gas with rubles, rather than in euros or dollars.
According to the German version of events, Putin agreed that payments would continue for the moment in either of the two Western currencies, with the Kremlin stating that these payments would then be converted into the Russian currency.
Moscow claimed that Putin explained to Scholz that his government is now demanding payment in rubles “due to the fact that, in violation of international law, the foreign exchange reserves of the Bank of Russia were frozen by the EU member states.” However, Putin told Scholz that the switchover would not result in less advantageous contract conditions for German importers.
Germany relies on Russia for more than half of its gas supply, and for a third of its imported oil. Leaders in Berlin have been less enthusiastic about sanctioning Russian energy than some of their EU counterparts, with Scholz describing Russia’s energy as “essential” for the survival of Germany’s economy, and Economy Minister Robert Habeck urging citizens this week to reduce their consumption amid the growing likelihood of rationing.