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Austria opens ruble gas account and Remain Neutral

Vienna’s OMV insists it’s not violating EU sanctions by opening a Gazprombank account

Austria’s oil and gas conglomerate OMV said on Friday that it had opened an account with Gazprombank to pay for Russian gas imports, insisting that the scheme does not violate the current EU embargo against Moscow. Austria imports some 80% of its gas from Russia.

“We have implemented a payment process that does not violate sanctions and ensures timely payments for gas supplies,” an OMV spokesman told Reuters on Friday evening. “We consider our payment obligations fulfilled with the transfer of the amount in euros.”

Facing a ban on trading in euros and dollars, Moscow introduced a new mechanism for gas payments from “unfriendly” countries at the end of March. Countries that imposed sanctions against Russia have to set up accounts with Gazprombank, where the payments in the currency of their choice will be converted to rubles for the final payment. As of May 12, a total of 20 European companies have opened such accounts.

Some, such as Finland, have refused – and will be cut off by Saturday as a result, Moscow has confirmed.

Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Bulgaria, the UK, Slovenia, and the Baltic states are among the countries that have publicly refused the new payment mechanism. Russia will not supply free natural gas to countries that refuse to honor the new payment mechanism, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

“Obviously, no one will supply anything to anyone for free,” Peskov told reporters

Austria to Remain Neutral, Foreign Minister Says

Austria’s top diplomat said his country would remain outside the NATO military bloc and keep its long-standing policy of neutrality after both Finland and Sweden applied to join the alliance.

Asked about the two Nordic states’ intention to join NATO ahead of a European Union meeting in Brussels on Monday, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that while he understands their reasons for applying, Austria would not follow suit.

“We Austrians are not members of NATO. I fully respect that Finland and Sweden are thinking about joining NATO, and this will probably take a path very quickly,” he said. “But that’s their decision and not ours; Austria will continue to be a neutral country.”

Austria is legally bound to neutrality under its constitution, which bars it from entering into military alliances or hosting foreign bases on its soil. Though Finland and Sweden lack similar legal provisions, both countries have traditionally kept policies of non-alignment, only rethinking that stance in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February.

Schallenberg went on to argue that Moscow had only “made NATO more relevant” with its invasion, citing Helsinki and Stockholm’s new-found desire to join, and that President Vladimir Putin’s strategy “has blown back into his face.”

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