Italy rejects Russian demand for gas payment in rubles

Paying for Russian gas in rubles would be unacceptable, G7 countries reiterated on Monday, as the heads of Italy's major energy firms confirmed that they won't be meeting the Russian president's demand.

Italy rejects Russian demand for gas payment in rubles
Italy is a key export market for Russian energy giant Gazprom. Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

The CEO of Italian energy giant Eni, Claudio Descalzi, also said on Monday that his company would not comply with the demand by Russia that “hostile countries”, including Italy, pay their energy bills using the Russian ruble, instead of euros or dollars,

“Eni will not pay for Russian gas in rubles,” Bloomberg quoted Descalzi as telling a panel discussion in Dubai.

“Eni doesn’t have rubles,” he said. “The contracts say fuel payments should be made in euros”.

READ ALSO: Italy announces plan to end reliance on Russian gas by 2025

Russia’s demand is “not acceptable”, read a statement issued on behalf of the G7 by Germany’s government on Monday.

‘All G7 ministers agreed that this is a clear unilateral breach of existing contracts,” 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s government, Russia’s Central Bank, and energy firm Gazprom to require payments for gas to be made in rubles as of March 31st, as he hit back at Western countries which have imposed sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

The demand would be particularly problematic for Italy, which is heavily reliant on imported gas – around half of which is currently supplied by Russia.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Monday told reporters that “we must interpret this demand as Putin having his back against the wall,” following a virtual meeting with his G7 counterparts.

The club consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, with Germany currently holding the presidency.

French President Emmanuel Macron had already rejected Putin’s gas-for-rubles demand on Friday.

The Russian move “is not in line with what was signed, and I do not see why we would apply it,” Macron said.

Like other European countries, Italy says it is planning to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports in the wake of the Ukraine war.

But the Italian government has so far resisted calls to boycott Russian oil and gas entirely.

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Italy revokes honours for ‘unworthy’ Russian PM

Italy stripped Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and three other high-ranking Russians of one of its highest honours on Thursday, saying they no longer deserved it.

Italy revokes honours for 'unworthy' Russian PM

Mishustin and Trade Minister Denis Manturov had been given the title ‘Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Italy’ in 2020, but President Sergio Mattarella signed a decree revoking the honour, deeming them “unworthy”.

He also stripped the same title from Deputy Industry Minister Viktor Evtukhov and Andrei Kostin, head of Russian state bank VTB.

“The Russian Federation must be placed under strong pressure, which is what we’re doing with the European Union, because a prolonged war in Europe could have incredibly serious consequences,” Mattarella warned on Thursday after a meeting with his Algerian counterpart in Rome.

EXPLAINED: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

The Order of the Star of Italy was created in 2011 to replace the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, which was awarded to people who helped rebuild the country after World War II.

It is awarded by the president to Italians or foreigners who have worked to “promote friendship and collaboration between Italy and other countries”.