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Russia sanctions EU leaders and most MEPs

“They need to open ruble accounts in Russian banks. And from these accounts they will have to pay for the gas delivered and that tomorrow, ”said Vladimir Putin on television after signing a decree to this effect. (Photo: Getty Images)

This text brings together all the reactions since the invasion of Russia in Ukraine for the day of March 31, 2022. It will be updated during the day. To find all our coverage on the conflict, it’s here.

11:46 am | Moscow — Russia announced on Thursday that it would ban entry into its territory for European leaders and the majority of MEPs, in response to punitive measures aimed at Moscow for its military intervention in Ukraine.

“The restrictions apply to the most senior leaders of the European Union, including a number of European commissioners and heads of European military bodies, as well as the vast majority of members of the European Parliament, who promote of anti-Russian policies,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

This measure also applies to politicians from EU member countries, as well as public figures and journalists who “have supported illegal sanctions against Russia, incited Russophobia or violated the rights and freedoms Russian-speaking populations,” the ministry added.

Russian diplomacy has not published the list of people targeted, but said it had informed the European representation in Moscow of this measure.

“We reaffirm that any hostile action by the EU and its member states will inevitably continue to be met with a firm response,” the Russian ministry said.

These sanctions intervene in the midst of a crisis between Western countries and Moscow since the launch, on February 24, of a Russian military offensive in Ukraine.

In response, the Western camp, led by the United States and the EU, imposed heavy economic sanctions on Russia, targeting in particular President Vladimir Putin, his government and oligarchs.

In mid-March, Moscow had already announced a ban on entry into Russian territory targeting President Joe Biden and several senior American officials.

Russian gas: Berlin and Paris are “preparing” for a possible shutdown

11:27 am | Berlin — Germany and France are “preparing” for a possible stoppage of Russian gas imports, the governments of the two countries said on Thursday, which also reiterated their opposition to any payment in rubles for deliveries.

“There may be a situation in which tomorrow (…) there will be no more Russian gas” and “it is up to us to prepare these scenarios and we are preparing them”, declared in Berlin the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire at a press conference with German Economy Minister Robert Habeck.

Berlin and Paris have at the same time reiterated their refusal to pay in rubles for deliveries of Russian gas, as requested by Vladimir Putin.

“It is written in the contracts that the payments are made in euros and sometimes in dollars,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz explained at a separate press conference also organized on Thursday in Berlin.

“I made it clear to the Russian president that it would stay that way” and “companies want to be able to pay in euros and will do so,” he added.

“The contracts provide for a currency in which they are executed and therefore the contracts must be executed in the currency provided for,” insisted Bruno Le Maire for his part.

“Contracts are contracts,” he added.

rubles

Vladimir Putin announced last week that Russia would no longer accept payments in dollars or euros for gas deliveries to the EU.

The Russian president explained that his decision was a reaction to the freezing of Russian assets decided by the West to sanction Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine.

In a telephone conversation with Olaf Scholz on Wednesday, Mr Putin assured the Chancellor that payments “would continue to be in euros”, according to comments reported by the German government.

The funds will be “transferred as usual to the Gazprom Bank, which is not subject to sanctions”, and will take care of the conversion into rubles, Berlin detailed.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, said he did not “accept this procedure” and “requested information in writing to better understand”.

The Europeans were however reassured by this conversation: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi thus assured Thursday morning that Russian gas deliveries to the EU were “not in danger”.

But a few hours later, the Russian president reiterated his threats, assuring that his country would no longer deliver gas to “unfriendly” countries refusing to pay in rubles from Friday April 1.

He added that in the event of refusal, “the contracts in progress would be stopped”.

Before the war, the European Union imported 40% of its gas from Russia. Germany was particularly dependent, with a proportion of 55%.

Washington targets Russian tech sector to prevent sanctions evasion

11:25 a.m. | Washington — Washington announced new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, this time targeting the technology sector, including Russia’s largest semiconductor maker, to, among other things, prevent the circumvention of Western sanctions.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it was targeting “21 entities and 13 individuals in its crackdown on Kremlin sanctions-busting networks and tech companies, which are instrumental in the war machine. of the Russian Federation”.

The company Serniya Engineering is thus one of the targets of this new salvo of sanctions, accused of being at the heart of the network set up to circumvent the sanctions imposed by Western countries.

“Today’s actions demonstrate the US government’s commitment to countering the circumvention of Western sanctions” against Russia, the Treasury said.

Washington also sanctioned the company Mikron, “the largest chip manufacturer in Russia” which, underlines the Treasury, “exports more than 50% of Russian microelectronics”.

“The Russian army depends on key Western technologies for the operation of its defense industrial base”, specifies the Treasury.

Thus, the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department) targets “the main Russian technology companies which enable the illegal war of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin against Ukraine. These designations will further impede Russia’s access to Western technology and the international financial system.

“We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from every angle, until this senseless war is over,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.

Washington had already targeted, with its sanctions, the Russian defense industry, and the deputy secretary of the Treasury announced on Tuesday that other sectors “essential to the Kremlin’s ability to operate its war machine” would be targeted.

Payment in rubles for “unfriendly” countries

10:13 a.m. | Moscow — Vladimir Putin announced Thursday that buyers of Russian gas from “unfriendly” countries will have to pay in rubles from accounts in Russia from Friday on pain of being deprived of supplies, a measure affecting the European Union in particular.

However, the price of gas remains denominated in the currency of the current contracts, usually in euros or dollars.

“They need to open ruble accounts in Russian banks. And from these accounts they will have to pay for the gas delivered and that tomorrow, ”said Vladimir Putin on television after signing a decree to this effect.

He added that in the event of refusal, “the contracts in progress will be stopped”.

“If these payments are not made, it will be considered a breach of obligations on the part of the buyer, and this will have all the necessary consequences,” insisted Mr. Putin.

He recalled that this measure was a response to the freezing of some 300 billion dollars of foreign currency reserves that Russia had abroad, a sanction decided by the West in retaliation for the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

Moscow published a list of “unfriendly” countries in early March, which includes the United States, members of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Korea, Norway and Australia.

EU states are the main consumers of Russian gas.

Mr Putin insisted that paying in rubles would have no effect on volumes or prices, which are formulated in most contracts in foreign currencies.

De facto, as the Kremlin explained Thursday morning, Russian gas consumers will have to carry out a foreign exchange transaction in Russia.

“For those who receive Russian gas, who pay for deliveries, there is in fact no change. They just acquire rubles for the amount of currency that is provided for in the contract, “said Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin.

“Russia remains faithful to its contractual obligations, in volume as well as in price,” he said, adding that Mr Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as well as their advisers, had discussed the new system in detail the day before. .

Russian gas is crucial for the EU, which has been seeking since the beginning of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine to find ways to get rid of this dependence.

The decision to switch to ruble invoicing should allow Russia to support its national currency, which has been heckled by sanctions, but will deprive it of a source of foreign currency.

Already, Russia obliges its exporters, including Gazprom, to convert 80% of their turnover into rubles.

These measures and a key interest rate of 20% enabled the Russian currency to recover. After dropping considerably in the wake of the start of the Russian offensive on February 24, it is back to levels close to those recorded before the assault.

On the next page, the Kremlin minimizes the ruble payment gate

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