Russia will halt gas supplies to buyers from 'unfriendly states' if they do not switch to payments in rubles as of April 1, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Speaking at a meeting with government officials in Moscow, Putin said he signed a decree laying out the rules for trading Russian natural gas with those countries.
'To purchase Russian natural gas, they must open ruble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that the gas will be paid for starting on April 1,' he said.
If they refuse to pay in rubles, Russia will consider this a violation of the gas contracts and will stop the deliveries, Putin added.
'Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity work either. That is, the existing contracts will be stopped,' he warned.
Putin said it is an involuntary decision made because the West uses its financial system as a weapon against Russia and refuses to fulfill contracts with Russian banks, enterprises and individuals.
Freezing Russia's assets in dollars and euros, the West basically seized the payments for the fuel deliveries and took it for free, he said.
'We have supplied European consumers with our resources, in this case, gas. They received it, paid us in euros, which they then froze themselves. In this regard, there is every reason to believe that we delivered part of the gas supplied to Europe free of charge,' he said.
New payments in dollars and euros can be frozen as well, which makes it impossible for Russia to use those currencies, he added.
'The risks of the current state of affairs are, of course, unacceptable for us,' Putin stressed.
He said switching payments for the natural resources is an important step towards strengthening Russia's financial and economic sovereignty.
By Elena Teslova in Moscow