By Francois Murphy and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich
VIENNA (Reuters) – Deliveries of Russian natural gas to Austria continue unrestricted and there are no signs this will change, its government said on Wednesday while adding it was working to find alternative sources.
Austria gets 80% of its natural gas from Russia, a heavy reliance it says will take time to end now that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need to move away from the cheapest source of gas in Europe.
“Since the start of the war, the delivery volumes have not changed. In fact, they have increased,” Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told a press conference.
He and Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler added that the government is planning up to 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) to fill the country’s gas reservoirs to 80% capacity by fall against 18% now, in addition to the 1.6 billion euros already allocated this year. for a strategic gas reserve.
Nehammer reiterated that when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin two weeks ago, Putin assured him that Austria would continue to receive the contractually agreed gas volumes and that Austria could continue to pay in euros deposited at Gazprombank, which then converts them into rubles.
Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday for not paying for gas in roubles. Nehammer said they refused to use the payment system through Gazprombank that Austria, Germany and others have adopted.
At the same time, Nehammer said deliveries were not guaranteed since the pipelines that supply Austria pass through Ukraine, and no one can know how the war will develop.
While working with the European Commission on joint purchases for European Union member states, Austria and its part-state oil company OMV are seeking to secure additional gas supplies, Nehammer said.
“There is gas from Norway, there is gas from Azerbaijan – how can we bring these volumes of gas to each other?” he said.
(Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and David Evans)
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