Russia’s Gazprom cuts gas from Poland and Bulgaria, stoking tensions in the European Union

Placeholder while loading article actions

Russia’s gas company, Gazprom, said on Wednesday it had halted natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, in a move that marked a significant escalation in economic tension between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine.

Gazprom said in a statment On Wednesday, it cut gas supplies to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgarian Bulgargaz because they did not comply with the authorization to pay in Russian currency. Gazprom said the suspension would continue from Wednesday “until payments are made” in rubles.

PGNiG confirmed the production halt, saying that deliveries of natural gas from Gazprom had “completely stopped”. It added that “the situation at the moment does not affect the current deliveries” to its customers, who it said are currently receiving fuel as they wish.

Gazprom noted that some of the gas destined for other countries passes through Bulgaria and Poland, which are members of NATO and the European Union. Gazprom said that if PGNiG or Bulgargaz withdraws gas intended for third countries, supplies to these countries will “reduce due to the volume sold”. It is the first supply disruption since Russian President Vladimir Putin said “unfriendly countries” should pay for natural gas in rubles rather than other currencies. European leaders were unacceptable Putin’s request accused Gazprom of violating its contracts.

The European Union relies heavily on Russian natural gas, which heats homes, cooks meals and generates electricity in most of the bloc’s 27 countries. Officials and experts have long worried that the EU is too dependent on Moscow and have warned that the relationship could be used as a weapon. The two countries targeted Tuesday are particularly vulnerable: Poland gets more than 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia and Bulgaria more than 70 percent, according to European Union data.

PGNiG said Gazprom sent it a letter telling it to “completely suspend deliveries” from the Yamal pipeline, which runs from Siberia to Europe. After the announcement, Polish officials insisted that the country had sufficient gas reserves.

“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskowa, He said on Twitter.

Bulgarian government too She said It secured an alternative gas supply and that there would be no domestic restrictions on consumption.

Ukrainian officials were quick to criticize Gazprom’s decision, saying the move was in retaliation for the European Union’s strong support for Kiev – and in particular Poland, which has been vocal in its support and has been a hub for the flow of arms and supplies to Ukraine. Andrei Yermak, chief of staff of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that Russia had begun “to blackmail Europe with gas.”

“We see efforts to increase the above and ignore any rules and obligations, which is typical for the Russians.” Yermak said in a post on Telegram. Russia is trying to break the unity of our allies. … That’s why the European Union needs to unite and put an embargo on energy resources, depriving the Russians of their energy weapons. “

European energy imports have been a bright spot for years, and have come under renewed scrutiny since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. Russia is still the block main supplier of oil, natural gas and solid fossil fuels, such as coal, Zelensky urged the European Union to scrap “blood money“Payments for energy from Moscow.

The European Union presents a plan to reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year, but it does not amount to a boycott

late last year, Amid the worsening energy crisisThe European Union has already been looking for ways to wean itself off its dependence on Russian imports, with some lawmakers accusing the Kremlin of limiting gas supplies to inflate prices and pressure European regulators to speed up approval of the EU. Nord Stream 2 . pipeline.

But imports continued, even as the war in Ukraine grew increasingly brutal, and European leaders leveled harsh criticism at Putin. Last month, the executive arm of the European Union You set an ambitious plan To wean the mass off Russian fossil fuels by 2030, relying instead on other sources and increasing renewable energy production. The proposal falls short of the immediate blanket ban on Russian oil and gas imposed by the United States, but it would cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year alone, an exciting move.

“We simply cannot rely on a resource that explicitly threatens us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the time.

But even a senior committee official He confessed The shift will be “bloody cruel,” accompanied by price increases and potential domestic political turmoil.

Some analysts said on Tuesday that Gazprom’s move could accelerate the severing of ties. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, called them “another sign of Russia’s politicization of existing agreements,” and predicted that they would “only accelerate European efforts to move away from Russian energy supplies.”

Irinka Hiromutska and Annabelle Chapman contributed to this report.