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Germany calls for people to cut energy use as response to Russian threat

BERLIN — Germans should voluntarily cut their energy consumption as a way of ending the country’s dependence on Russia, German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday.

He also raised the warning level for gas supplies.

“I would like to combine the warning level with the appeal to companies and private consumers to help us, help Germany, help Ukraine by saving gas or energy altogether,” he said.

The country’s alert level was set at “early warning” after Russian President Vladimir Putin said gas would have to be paid for in rubles.

“It’s important that sanctions are respected … but Putin is now trying to weaken this by trying to break through the sanctions with his ruble demand,” Habeck said.

Germany and other Russian customers have refused to renegotiate long-term supply contracts to pay Gazprom in rubles. The gambit is seen as a way for Russia to prop up the value of its currency in the wake of its attack on Ukraine.

Habeck said there is still no immediate supply issue, but that the government is on alert and monitoring the situation, adding that there are statements from the Russian side threatening to end gas deliveries to countries that don’t comply with the ruble demand.

“To be prepared for this situation, this morning I declared the early warning level according to the gas law,” the minister said.

According to Germany’s three-level gas emergency plan, level one — “early warning” — and two — “alert” — don’t involve “non-market-based measures” to cope with gas supply and distribution issues, but level three, or “emergency,” does.

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