WARSHW / SOFIA / KYIV – The Russian power agency Gazprom said on Wednesday it had cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for failing to pay for gas in rubles, the Kremlin’s toughest retaliation against international sanctions for the war in Ukraine.
Poland has confirmed that supplies have been cut, while Bulgaria has said it will find out soon. Both have accused Gazprom of violating long-term supply agreements.
“Since all trade and legal obligations are being complied with, it is clear that natural gas is being used more and more as a political and economic weapon in the current war,” said Alexander Nikolaev, Bulgaria’s energy minister.
Gazprom said in a statement that it had “completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgaria and PGNIG”. Due to the absence of payment in rubles, ”he said, referring to the Polish and Bulgarian gas companies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that buyers in “non-friendly” countries pay for or cut gas in rubles, starting in April. The European Union (EU) has denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning Europe’s intelligence have been made more than once.
Poland receives its Russian gas from Russia’s vast gas fields in the far north via the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which continues to supply Germany and other European countries to the west. Bulgaria is supplied through pipes over Turkey.
Polish state-owned PGNiG has confirmed that its supply has been cut off from Gazprom but said it is still supplying its own clients as needed.
“PGNiG reserves the right to seek compensation for breaches of the gas supply reduction agreement and will use all available contractual and legal means to do so,” the company said.
Gazprom GAZP.MM’s supply covers about 50% of Poland and about 90% of Bulgaria. Poland says it does not need to draw reserves and its gas storage is 76% full. Bulgaria says it is in talks to try to import liquefied natural gas through Turkey and Greece.
Russia’s energy exports have been largely unhindered since the war began, the biggest gap in sanctions that would otherwise have separated Moscow from most of its trade with the West.
Kyiv has called on Europe to cut off fuel imports from Moscow’s war effort, which would bring Russia millions of dollars a day.
Germany, Russia’s biggest buyer, said this week that it expects to cut off Russian oil imports in a few days. But moving Europe away from cheap and plentiful Russian natural gas, which heats his house, fuels his factories and runs his power plants, would be far more likely to be disrupted.
Andrei Yarmak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was “starting gas blackmail in Europe”.
“Russia is trying to break the unity of our allies,” Mr Yarmak said.
Russia gains earlier
Since repelling Russian aggression on the outskirts of Kiev last month, Moscow has re-centered its operations on eastern Ukraine, launching a new offensive from various directions to completely occupy the two provinces known as Donbass.
General workers in Ukraine have acknowledged that Russia has already gained ground in several areas, including Velika Komishukhava on one front and the suburbs of Javodi and the settlements in Jarichen and Novoshtokivsk in Donetsk region.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says its missiles hit an arms depot in the Zaporizhia region, which houses weapons belonging to the United States and European countries.
An aide to the mayor of the port city of Mariupol said Russian forces had resumed their offensive at the Azovstal steel plant, where fighters and some civilians were trapped. No agreement was reached on Wednesday on trying to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, said Petro Andruschenko.
Ukraine says it attacked Snake Island, a Black Sea outpost that was seized by Russia at the start of the war when the guards became heroes to the Ukrainians for refusing to surrender with obscenity.
Concerns are growing over the possibility of escalating conflict in neighboring Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists have reported several explosions in recent days in a small area occupied by Russian troops since the 1990s. – Reuters