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Putin Assures Austria Gas Deliveries, Ready To Talk Prisoner Swap With Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin reported to Austria on Friday that Russia would meet its natural gas delivery commitments and was ready to negotiate a prisoner swap with Ukraine, according to Reuters.

President Putin told Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer over the phone that all gas deliveries would be completed in full.

The Kremlin made a similar statement, saying that it would continue to fulfill contractual obligations on its natural gas deliveries to Austria.

Austria gets 80% of its natural gas from Russia, and it could take years for Austria to wean itself off Russian natural gas.

Austria’s OMV is one of the EU companies that have opened up an account with Gazprombank to pay for Russian gas imports. OMV can make its payment in the Gazprombank account in euros, where it will then be transferred into rubles. OMV has insisted that this does not violate sanctions. OMV’s notice that it would pay in rubles comes less than two weeks after Austria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg committed to “already existing agreements and will not pay in rubles, we have no such intention.”

The Austrian government has no plan in place should gas supplies from Russia be disrupted, the Federation of Austrian Industries President George Knill said on Thursday, according to TeleSur, adding that Austria’s entire food industry is dependent on this gas supply.

Knill added that it is not Russia cutting off gas supplies that is most worrying—it is the potential for the EU to stop gas imports from Russia.

Russia has already cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after both countries refused to open up accounts with Gazprombank to allow their payments to be converted to rubles.

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While the EU is working on some sort of Russian crude oil ban, a ban on Russian natural gas imports is far less likely given the heavy dependence many EU countries share.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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