Erdogan and Putin deal huge EU blow and outsmart bloc – Turkey hands Russia rubles for gas

Erdogan says invasion of Ukraine ‘not acceptable’ in February

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Mr Erdogan and the Russian President came to the agreement following four hours of talks in Sochi, Russia, last week. The pair have a close but complex relationship, with Turkey refusing to slap sanctions down on Moscow, but has also been said to be conducting a “balancing act” by also supporting Ukraine in the conflict.

Mr Erdogan told reporters: “As Turkey, our door is open to everyone.

“One good thing about this Sochi visit is that we agreed on the ruble with Mr Putin

“Since we will conduct this trade in rubles, it will of course bring money to Turkey and Russia.”

So far, neither the Turkish nor Russian side has specified what portion of the Russian gas will now be paid for in rubles.

But it is clear that Turkey relies on Russia for a significant portion of its gas, with the country accounting for 45 percent of its natural gas purchases last year.

This comes after Putin told “unfriendly countries” that they had until March 31 to pay for Russia’s gas in rubles or else face a supply cut.

It came after the value of the ruble saw a steep decline following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As the ruble was trading at such low levels, Putin was scrambling to prevent Russian exports from bringing in less money to subsidise state services and fund the war.

This was likely a key aim of sanctions which targeting Russian central banks aimed at crippling the economy to try and end Putin’s war efforts.

While Turkey is not on Putin’s list of “unfriendly countries, Mr Erdogan had still been hoping to maintain good relations with Ukraine as it positioned itself as the mediator between the two countries.

This was demonstrated by Ankara getting Russia and Ukraine to sign an accord to end Ukraine’s Black Sea ports could open up for grain exports again.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even said he was grateful to “the United Nations and Turkey for their respective efforts”.

But Mr Zelensky may be less grateful for the potential lifeline Turkey has thrown the Russian economy amid Western sanctions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had urged members of the EU not to submit to Putin’s demand.

She warned: “To pay in rubles is a breach of our sanctions.”

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Ruble payments also undermine US sanctions too, helping Moscow to swerve the restrictions on dollar transactions with Russia that the US is imposing on global banks.

The EU, perhaps unlike Turkey, is also hoping to phase out its Russian gas imports, despite continuing to hand Putin billions amid the invasion.

But while the bloc has signalled its intent to slash Putin’s funding to help end the war, Turkey appears far less interested, continuously avoiding getting involved with sanctions and prioritising its own economic gain.

Mr Erdogan and Putin also pledged in Sochi to expand economic cooperation in a number of other sectors, such as banking and industry.

This involves increasing trade volumes to meet both parties’ expectations over economic and energy issues, according to the joint statement.

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