Russian energy giant Gazprom on Wednesday halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying for the gas in rubles, the Kremlin’s harshest response yet to crippling sanctions imposed by the West over the invasion of Ukraine.
Öland confirmed supplies had been cut, while Bulgaria said it would find out soon. Both accused Gazprom of violating long-term supply contracts.
“As all trade and legal obligations are respected, it is clear that natural gas is currently being used more as a political and economic weapon in the current war,” said Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the move was “another attempt by Russia to use gas as a tool of extortion” and showed “Russia’s unreliability as a gas supplier”.
She said the EU was designing “our coordinated response” and working with international partners to secure alternative flows.
Gazprom said in a statement it had “completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgargaz and PGNiG due to lack of payments in rubles,” referring to the Polish and Bulgarian gas companies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that buyers from “unfriendly” countries pay for gas in rubles or be blocked from the date payments are due in April. The European Union has rejected this demand as a description of contracts that provided for payment in euros.
Poland gets its Russian gas from Russia’s vast arctic gas fields in the far north through the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which travels further west to supply Germany and other European countries. Bulgaria is supplied by pipes via Turkey.
Poland’s state-owned PGNiG confirmed that its supplies had been halted by Gazprom, but said it supplies its own customers as needed.
“The disruption of gas supply is a breach of contract and PGNiG reserves the right to seek compensation and will use all contractual and legal means available to do so,” the company said.
Gazprom’s supplies cover about 50 percent of Polish consumption and about 90 percent of Bulgarian consumption.
Poland said it doesn’t have to draw on reserves and its gas storage facility is 76 percent full. Bulgaria has said it is in talks to try importing liquefied natural gas through Turkey and Greece.
Russia’s energy exports have continued largely unhindered since the war began, the biggest loophole in the sanctions that have otherwise cut off Moscow from much of its trade with the West.
Kyiv has urged Europe to stop funding Moscow’s war effort by halting energy imports that bring Russia hundreds of millions of dollars a day.
Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian energy, said this week it hopes to stop importing Russian oil within days. But turning Europe away from the cheap and abundant Russian natural gas that heats its homes, fuels its factories and powers its electricity plants would be a far more disruptive prospect.
Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said Russia was “starting the gas blackmail of Europe”.
“Russia is trying to destroy the unity of our allies,” Yermak said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/world/russias-gazprom-halts-gas-supplies-to-poland-and-bulgaria-41591932.html Russia’s Gazprom halts gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria