Germany and Austria have triggered emergency plans over possible gas supply disruption amid a payments stand-off with Russia.
Russia had demanded “unfriendly” countries pay for its gas in roubles from 31 March, but the EU, which mainly pays in euros, rejected the idea.
Moscow later appeared to soften its stance, saying on Wednesday rouble payments would be introduced gradually.
But Germany and Austria have taken the first steps towards gas rationing
Germany urged consumers and companies to reduce consumption in anticipation of possible shortages, while Austria said it was tightening its monitoring of the gas market.
Germany gets about half its gas and a third of its oil from Russia and has warned that it could face a recession if supplies suddenly stopped.
Neighbouring Austria relies on Russia much more for gas, with the country getting about 80% from the country and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s office said measures such as gas rationing would only come into play in an “immediate crisis”.