Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he has signed a decree, saying foreign buyers must pay in rubles for Russian gas from April 1, and contracts would be halted if these payments were not made. “In order to purchase Russian natural gas, they must open ruble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that payments will be made for gas delivered starting from tomorrow,” Putin said in televised remarks. “If such payments are not made, we will consider this a default on the part of buyers, with all the ensuing consequences. Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity either – that is, existing contracts will be stopped.” Putin’s decision to enforce ruble payments for gas has boosted the Russian currency, which fell to historic lows when the West applied sweeping sanctions after he sent his army into Ukraine on February 24. Putin said the switch was meant to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty, and it would stick to its obligations on all contracts. Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas. Earlier, Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that conditions were not yet in place for a ceasefire in Ukraine, Draghi told a news conference on Thursday when asked about a telephone call with Putin the previous day. Draghi also said that Putin told him that current gas contracts remained in force and that European firms will continue to pay in euros and dollars, rather than in rubles. “What I understood, but I may be wrong, is that the conversion of the payment…. is an internal matter of the Russian Federation,” Draghi said.