Austrian leader says Putin told him gas payments in euros can continue

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer holds a news conference in Moscow
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer attends a news conference after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
  • No other EU leader has meet Putin since Ukraine invasion
  • Nehammer's accounts had focused on war's human tragedy
  • Russia appears to have kept door open to payment in euros
  • Austria obtains 80% of its natural gas from Russia

VIENNA, April 14 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told Chancellor Karl Nehammer during their meeting this week that Austria's supply of gas can continue to be paid for in euros, Nehammer was quoted as saying by Austrian news agency APA.

Moscow has warned Europe it risks having gas supplies cut unless it pays in roubles as he seeks retaliation over Western sanctions for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a "special military operation". read more

Nehammer said he held "very direct, open and tough" talks with Putin near Moscow on Monday about the invasion of Ukraine. But the Austrian leader had not publicly mentioned any discussion of Austria's security of gas supply. read more

Austria gets 80% of its natural gas from Russia and opposes an immediate European Union gas embargo on Moscow, arguing it is not possible to suddenly switch to alternative suppliers.

Putin said "that the gas supply is secured, that Russia will deliver the contractually agreed quantities and that payments can continue to be made in euros", APA quoted Nehammer as saying in a joint interview on Wednesday with German news agency DPA.

The European Commission has said those with contracts requiring payment in euros or dollars should stick to that, which Nehammer has said Austria will do.

At the same time, Russia appears to have opened a door to continued payment in euros.

Two weeks ago Moscow decreed foreign buyers of Russian gas would have to open rouble accounts in state-run Gazprombank (GZPRI.MM), which is not under the same crippling sanctions as many other Russian banks, or risk being cut off.

European gas buyers could therefore deposit payments in euros and let Gazprombank buy roubles on their behalf - a work-around that Austria has said appears to make continued payment in euros possible. read more

Nehammer repeated his opposition to an embargo in Wednesday's interview, which quoted him as saying it "would mean that both (Austrian) industry and households would suffer serious harm from the non-delivery of that gas".

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith

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