Russia has told “unfriendly” foreign countries they must start paying for gas in roubles or it will cut supplies.
Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stating buyers “must open rouble accounts in Russian banks” from Friday.
“Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity either – that is, existing contracts will be stopped,” the Russian president said.
Mr Putin’s demand is being seen as an attempt to boost the rouble, which has been hit by Western sanctions.
Western companies and governments have rejected Russia’s demands to pay for gas in roubles as a breach of existing contracts, which are set in euros or US dollars.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Western nations have issued economic and trading sanctions on Russia, but the European Union has not placed bans on oil or gas, unlike the US and Canada, as its member nations rely heavily on it.
Mr Putin said the switch to roubles was meant to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty, and it would stick to its obligations on all contracts, if Western nations obliged.
Germany said the change announced by Mr Putin amounted to “blackmail”.
At a news conference, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said he had not yet seen the new decree signed by Mr Putin.
“With regard to the threat, demand or consideration – one doesn’t know what to call it anymore – to be made to pay in roubles, it is crucial for us that the contracts are respected,” he said.
Separately, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said German companies would continue to pay for Russian gas using euros as stipulated in contracts.
The order signed by Mr Putin means foreign buyers of Russian gas will have to open an account at Gazprombank and transfer euros or US dollars into it.
Gazprombank will then convert this into roubles which will then be used to make the payment for gas.
France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire declined to comment on technical details linked to the latest Russian demands for rouble payment.
Analysts say making nations pay in roubles for gas will support the country’s currency, which fell sharply after the invasion but has begun to recover.
Nathan Piper, head of oil and gas research at Investec, said Mr Putin was attempting to put economic pressure “back on Europe” and that more foreign exchange demand for roubles would likely push up the value of the currency.
“However, long term Russia needs to remain a reliable supplier of gas so it is unclear if they would actually restrict gas supply,” he added.