Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that from tomorrow, countries buying gas from Russia will have to pay in rubles or their contracts will not be honored.
In a TV ad on Thursday, Mr Putin said he had signed a decree to that effect, adding that the move to the ruble was aimed at “strengthening our sovereignty” and protecting Russian jobs.
But the move has been rejected by European capitals, with Berlin saying it amounts to “blackmail”.
Mr Putin said: “To buy Russian natural gas, they have to open ruble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that payments for gas delivered from tomorrow will be made.
“If such payments are not made, we will consider this as a default on the part of the buyers, with all the consequences that flow from it.”
He added: “No one is selling us anything for free, nor are we going to do charity – that is, existing contracts will be stopped.”
The operator of the Greek gas network will review its plans regarding the additional shipments of liquefied natural gas which Greece could need if Russia interrupts gas supplies to the country, the Energy Ministry said on Wednesday.
Russia’s demand to pay in rubles for its gas, which covers a third of Europe’s annual energy needs, has raised fears it could cut gas supplies.