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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday (Mar 31) that he had signed a decree saying foreign buyers must pay in roubles for Russian gas from Apr 1, and contracts would be halted if these payments were not made.

“In order to purchase Russian natural gas, they must open rouble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that payments will be made for gas delivered starting from tomorrow,” Putin said in televised remarks.

“If such payments are not made, we will consider this a default on the part of buyers, with all the ensuing consequences. Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity either – that is, existing contracts will be stopped.”

Putin’s decision to enforce rouble payments for gas has boosted the Russian currency, which fell to historic lows when the West applied sweeping sanctions after he sent his army into Ukraine on Feb 24.

But Western companies and governments have rejected the move as a breach of existing contracts, which are set in euros or dollars.

Putin said the switch was meant to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty, and it would stick to its obligations on all contracts. Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas.