The Slovak government has refused to give a straight answer to speculation that the state-owned energy company SPP has agreed to open a ruble account with Russia's Gazprombank and thus would in effect be paying for Russian gas in rubles, which may be a breach of EU sanctions.
Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulik said the answer to this question would be made public "in due course". If Slovakia did so, he said, it would not violate EU sanctions, he claimed.
The Kremlin insisted in late March that "unfriendly" Western countries pay for Russian gas imports in rubles, rather than the euro or dollar as previously.
Gas companies in Hungary, Austria and Germany have reportedly opened ruble accounts at Gazprombank to pay for supplies from Russian state-owned oil company Gazprom. The gas distribution companies deposit payment in euros, which are then converted into rubles in their ruble accounts.
According to the Financial Times, Italy's Eni is currently considering whether to open a ruble account when its next payment comes due at the end of May.
The EU Commission has yet to give a clear judgment on whether this breaches EU sanctions on paying for gas in rubles. Paying in rubles would help support the Russian currency and thereby allow the Kremlin to evade Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.
The Slovak government insists that Slovakia is not in danger of losing oil supplies. Slovakia is dependent for 70% of its gas on Russian supplies.
"We monitor the situation every single day. The gas is flowing, SPP has paid all its obligations," the minister said. "If the gas stopped flowing tomorrow, we would last until autumn," he added, according to Pravda.sk.
Richard Prokypcak, deputy chairman of SPP's board of directors, confirmed that deliveries from the Russians are still on schedule. "Gazprom promised us a sufficient time frame to deal with the issues related to gas payments in rubles. We do not underestimate the situation. We have different scenarios. We are also communicating intensively with other gas suppliers," he was quoted by Pravda.sk as saying, stressing that a tanker from the US with LNG is already in the Mediterranean Sea. It is due to arrive on May 1.
Richard Kvasnovsky, executive director of the Slovak Gas and Oil Association, told Pravda.sk that Slovakia currently has no reason to pay in rubles. "According to the contract, payments are in euros or dollars," he stressed.
Earlier this week, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said Slovakia will continue to pay for Russian gas in euros as agreed in a contract and in line with rules and recommendations agreed by the EU. "Russia uses oil and gas as a tool to pursue its imperialistic interests, which have culminated in the invasion of Ukraine and war crimes on its territory," wrote Heger, according to the Slovak News Agency.
Slovak President Zuzana Caputova confirmed that the country will continue to pay in euros, Euractiv reported. “This is the Slovak position for the time being – as well as the position of all European Union (EU) states,” she said, stressing that it is necessary to cooperate in a unified approach with all EU countries and secure Slovakia’s future in terms of energy resources independently of Russia.