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Fortum confirms subsidiary Uniper to use new payment system for Russian gas

The Financial Times reports that several firms, including Uniper, were preparing to use a new Kremlin-required purchase arrangement which has been criticised as circumventing EU sanctions.

Uniper headquarters, file photo. Image: Sascha Steinbach / EPA

Finnish state-owned energy firm Fortum has responded to a report that its German subsidiary Uniper thinks it is possible to start paying rubles for natural gas purchased from Russia.

Fortum said Uniper would continue to pay for Russian gas in euros.

On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that a number of European energy companies were preparing to use a new Kremlin-required purchase arrangement which has been criticised as circumventing EU sanctions, resulting in the payment of billions of euros to Russia.

Citing sources "with knowledge of the preparations," the paper reported that gas firms plan to open accounts at Gazprombank in Switzerland to effectively make the payments in euros while actually handing over rubles to Russian firms, as required by the Kremlin. The firms are in countries including Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia, according to FT.

Uniper's CFO, Tiina Tuomela, said: "We consider that the amendment of the payment process complies with the sanctions law and so the payments are possible," FT reported.

In a separate statement, Fortum said that Uniper and the German government have reached the conclusion that it is still possible to purchase gas from Russia under such arrangements.

Fortum emphasised that Germany is reliant on gas imports from Russia, while at the same time saying that Uniper is paying for the gas in euros.

Meanwhile, EU trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, told FT that it is up to individual companies how to interpret agreements made with Gazprom. He also urged firms to strictly follow the agreed conditions.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that paying for Russian gas in rubles was a violation of EU sanctions if original agreements did not require payments in the Russian currency.

Tytti Tuppurainen, Finnish Minister of European Affairs and Ownership Steering, has previously said that Finland did not agree with Russia's demands for payments in rubles.

Fortum said in a statement that Uniper would continue to pay for gas in euros after it begins using the new payment mechanism. The company did not offer Yle further comment on the payment mechanism.