Germany sparks EU outrage as Berlin backs down in humiliating plan to pay Putin in rubles

Germany's reliance on Russian gas addressed by Eva Maydell

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Germany is considering paying for Russian gas in rubles in a humiliating decision for Berlin and European Union solidarity. Channel 4’s Matt Frei asked Bulgarian MEP Eva Maydell about the reports that “Germany might be thinking of paying for its Russian gas in rubles”. Mr Frei said that the move “would, of course, cause outrage in the European Union”.

Donald Tusk, the former President of the European Council, blasted the news.

He tweeted: “I’ve heard that not only Hungary but also Austria and Germany are ready to pay for the Russian gas in rubles. Are they still in eurozone or in rublezone?”

Bulgaria and Poland were both cut off from Russian gas on Wednesday for refusing to pay in rubles.

Ms Maydell said that Putin’s decision to cut off her country was a hint to other countries, like Germany, that they could be next.

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However, she urged Berlin to stand strong, saying: “Putin is trying to turn the screws by hitting Bulgaria.

“He is trying to make the maximum amount of fear and division inside Europe by trying to discredit the solidarity within the EU.”

Mr Frei followed up: “There is no economy more reliant on Russian gas than the biggest economy in Europe and that is Germany.

“There are reports today, unconfirmed, that Germany might be thinking of paying for its Russian gas in rubles, which would, of course, cause outrage in the European Union.”

Ms Maydell said that it was unclear whether it was private companies or member-states paying in rubles, but added: “Nevertheless, this goes against the sanctions we have imposed against Russia.

“We need to be able to pay the short-term price to secure a long-term independence and prosperity.”

Newsnight: Eastern Europe in clutches of Russia over gas

Mr Frei added: “If Bulgaria can put up with the sacrifice of not having Russian gas, then Germany, Austria, and other bigger economies should be able to do the same.”

Overnight, reports in the Financial Times revealed that some of Europe’s largest gas importers were preparing to back down to Russian demands.

It says gas distributors in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are planning to open ruble accounts at Gazprombank in Switzerland.

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The groups include two of the single largest importers of Russian gas – Düsseldorf-based Uniper and Vienna-based OMV.

The reports were particularly awkward as the European Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen warned Russia it will not bend to “blackmail”.

The German economy minister Robert Habeck has warned that a Russian energy blockade could tip its economy into recession.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a petition today on support for Ukraine, backing the delivery of weapons including heavy arms to the country.

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