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China to start paying for Russian gas in rubles, yuan: Gazprom

Change is part of drive by Moscow to reduce dependence on U.S. currency

A worker checks a gas valve in the Russian Far East in 2019: Moscow is forging closer economic ties with China and other non-Western countries in response to Western sanctions.   © Reuters

(Reuters) -- Russia's Gazprom said on Tuesday it had signed an agreement to start switching payments for gas supplies to China to yuan and rubles instead of dollars.

The shift is part of a push by Russia to reduce its reliance on the U.S. dollar, euro and other hard currencies in its banking system and for trade -- a drive that Moscow has accelerated since it was hit with Western sanctions in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has been forging closer economic ties with China and other non-Western countries, in particular as new markets for its vital hydrocarbon exports.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said allowing for payments in Russian rubles and Chinese yuan was "mutually beneficial" for both Gazprom and Beijing's state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

"It will simplify the calculations, become an excellent example for other companies and give an additional impetus for the development of our economies," he said.

Gazprom did not provide further details on the scheme or say when payments would switch from dollars into rubles and yuan.

President Vladimir Putin earlier this year forced European customers to open ruble bank accounts with Gazprombank and pay in Russian currency if they wanted to continue receiving Russian gas. Supplies were cut off to some companies and countries that refused the terms of the deal.

Russia signed a landmark $37.5 billion extension to its deal to supply gas to China on the eve of the invasion.

It started pumping gas to China through the 3,000-km (1,865 mile) Power of Siberia gas pipeline in late 2019. Putin hailed the move as a "genuinely historical event, not only for the global energy market, but above all for us, for Russia and China."

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