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By Christoph Steitz and Markus Wacket
FRANKFURT/LEUNA, Germany (Reuters) -RWE has opened an account in Russia to pay for gas in euros, a spokesperson for Germany's largest power producer said, preparing to meet Moscow's demands for a new payment scheme ahead of a closely-watched deadline later this month.
Germany's economy minister Robert Habeck also sounded an optimistic note, saying the new method, which has led to confusion among European gas buyers and raised concerns about possible supply disruptions, would not cause any problems.
Under the new Russian payment system, buyers are obliged to deposit euros or dollars into an account at private Russian bank Gazprombank. The bank will convert the cash into roubles, place the proceeds in another account owned by the foreign buyer and transfer the payment in Russian currency to Gazprom.
"We are prepared for payment in euros and have opened a corresponding account. We are therefore acting in accordance with European and German regulation," a spokesperson for RWE, one of Germany's importers of Russian gas, said.
Like peer Uniper, RWE must make a payment for Russian gas by the end of May.
The comments come after the European Commission on Friday confirmed its previous advice that EU sanctions do not prevent companies from opening an account at a designated bank. It said companies can pay for Russian gas - so long as they do so in the currency agreed in their existing contracts and declare the transaction completed when that currency is paid.
Asked about the new process of paying for Russian gas, Habeck, whose economy ministry is in charge of ensuring Germany's energy security, on Monday said: "I assume that this will ... work out".
During a visit to a chemical park in the town of Leuna, eastern Germany, he said: "In so far as there were communication channels with Russian firms, with Gazprom, it seems to be clarified."
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Markus Wacket, Writing by Miranda Murray, Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)