According to the quoted source, Russia is suspected since last year that it has limited the supply of natural gas in Europe in order to cause a rise in prices, which worsened with the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine at the end of February.
Brussels has not confirmed that its investigation targeted the Russian group Gazprom, but two European sources told AFP that the investigations that took place on Wednesday targeted the offices of the Russian group, as well as its natural gas distribution subsidiary Wingas.
“Unexpected inspections are a preliminary step in the investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that companies are guilty of anti – competitive behavior and does not prejudice the outcome of the investigation itself, “the EU executive said.
The invasion of Ukraine, launched on February 24, led to the explosion of the European reference price for natural gas, which on March 7 reached an all-time high of 345 euros per MWh. In the meantime, the quotations fell lower, without returning below the threshold of 100 euros, and on Thursday morning they stood at 125 euros for a MWh, compared to less than 50 euros in the same period last year.
The war in Ukraine has highlighted the European Union’s extreme dependence on Russian natural gas, which accounts for 40% of its consumption, which limits the EU’s ability to act against Moscow. Since the beginning of the war, the 27 EU states have adopted unprecedented sanctions against Russia, but have refrained from targeting the gas sector, even though it is an essential source of revenue for Russia, which can thus finance its war effort. AFP also writes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he had signed a decree requiring foreign customers to pay in rubles for Russian gas on April 1, and that contracts would be suspended if the condition was not met, Reuters reported.
“In order to buy Russian natural gas, they have to open ruble accounts in Russian banks. From these accounts, payments will be made for the gas delivered starting tomorrow (Friday – no.), “Putin said in a televised speech.
“If such payments are not made, we will consider that the payment obligations of the buyers are not respected, with all the consequences that result from this. No one is selling anything to us for free, and we will not be doing charity work either – that means existing contracts will be broken, “he added.
Putin’s decision to impose ruble payments on gas has led to an appreciation of the Russian currency, which fell to historic lows when the West imposed severe sanctions following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Western companies and governments have rejected the decision as a breach of existing contracts, which are in euros or dollars.
Putin said the change was meant to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty and that it would honor its obligations in all contracts.
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