The government of Germany, Europe’s largest economy, took the first formal step toward gas rationing by declaring a “warning phase” of its energy emergency law, now that Russia would seek to demand payments in rubles for energy it sells to “unfriendly countries.”
Warning of a possible cut in natural gas supplies from Russia, Economy Minister Robert Habeck called on citizens and businesses to reduce energy consumption as much as possible, since “every kilowatt-hour counts”.
“There is currently no supply shortage,” Habeck explained. “However, we must increase precautionary measures to be prepared in case of an escalation by Russia.”
The warning phase is the first of three alert levels under the law, and involves the creation of a crisis cabinet to deal with the upcoming lack of gas supply in the country. According to the minister, Germany has 25 % capacity in natural gas storage.
Russia will not give “free gas” to Europe
According to Russian state media, TASS, the Kremlin said it will not “supply free gas” to countries in Europe that, along with the United States, have imposed economic sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, such that it set March 31 as the deadline to begin using rubles as the currency of payment in energy deals.
“The supply process is very complicated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the agreements include “both supplies and payment and adjustment of balances.”
Although Peskov did not answer with specificity what steps the Russian government will take if European countries refuse to pay for gas in rubles, the official said such issues should be “resolved as they arise.”
“But we will definitely not provide free gas, that’s for sure,” Peskov emphasized. “It is almost impossible and irrational to engage in charity work in our situation.”
Earlier this week, Habeck said the G7 allies agreed that Putin’s move is a “unilateral and manifest breach of existing agreements,” and said payments in rubles are “not acceptable,” calling on the companies involved to “not obey” Putin’s demand.