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Russia’s Gazprom cuts gas to Poland, Bulgaria, stoking E.U. tensions

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Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, said Wednesday it had shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that marks a significant escalation in the economic tension between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine.

Gazprom said in a statement Wednesday that it had shut off the gas supply to Poland’s PGNiG gas company and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz because they had not complied with the mandate to pay in Russian currency. The suspension would persist from Wednesday “until the payments are made” in rubles, Gazprom said.

PGNiG confirmed the cutoff, saying that its natural gas deliveries from Gazprom “have halted completely.” It added that “at present the situation is not affecting current deliveries” to its customers, which it said were currently receiving fuel as they wished.

Gazprom noted that some of its gas destined for other countries runs through Bulgaria and Poland, which are both NATO and European Union members. Gazprom said that if PGNiG or Bulgargaz were to siphon off gas intended for third countries, the supplies for those countries “will be reduced by the volume that was offtaken.” It is the first supply disruption since Russian President Vladimir Putin said “unfriendly countries” would have to pay for natural gas in rubles instead of other currencies. European leaders had rejected Putin’s demand and accused Gazprom of violating its contracts.

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

PGNiG said Gazprom sent it a letter informing the company of “the complete suspension of deliveries” from the Yamal pipeline, which runs from Siberia to Europe. After the announcement, Polish officials insisted the country has sufficient gas reserves.

“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Poland’s climate minister, Anna Moskwa, said on Twitter.

Bulgaria’s government also said that it had secured alternate gas supplies and that there would be no domestic restrictions on consumption.

Ukrainian officials were quick to criticize Gazprom’s decision, saying the move was retaliation against the European Union for its staunch backing of Kyiv — especially Poland, which has been particularly vocal in its support and has been a hub for arms and supplies flowing into Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said Russia has begun “gas blackmailing Europe.”

“We see the efforts to up the ante and disregard any rules and obligations, which is typical for…

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2022-04-27 03:06:20

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