BELGRADE (Sputnik) - Russian gas that is delivered to Serbia via Bulgaria will not be paid for in rubles, the head of Srbijagas energy company, Dusan Bajatovic, said on Tuesday.
"We are not going to switch to payments in rubles for the transit of Russian gas, as Bulgaria, under the agreement on the [gas pipeline] Balkan Stream, which is signed for 20 years, cannot interrupt gas transport through its territory. Russia has already paid Bulgaria in dollars for the gas transport until the end of 2023 according to the agreement. Serbia is paid in euros for gas transit [to Hungary], and if it is not possible in euros, we will take the volumes of gas that belong to Gazprom Export, and thus cover the payments as if we paid for gas in euros," Bajatovic told Serbian news agency Tanjug.
Bajatovic added that Gazprom and Gazprom Export are not on the Western sanctions list and Serbia is not on Russia’s list of unfriendly states. Serbia is filling up the Banatski Dvor underground reservoir, which currently holds 50 million cubic meters of gas belonging to Serbia and 160 million cubic meters of gas belonging to Gazprom Export.
There is no alternative to Russian gas for Europe in the coming years, and liquefied natural gas from the United States "will always be more expensive than Russian gas," according to Bajatovic.
Russia is the largest exporter of gas to Europe, supplying about 40% of the energy consumed in the region.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the government and the national energy giant Gazprom to switch gas contracts with countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine to rubles by the end of March.