Russia begins ‘gas blackmail’ of Poland and Bulgaria ahead of UK call for increased military aid to Ukraine | Poland

Moscow told Poland and Bulgaria it would halt gas supplies from Wednesday following their refusal to pay Russian energy giant Gazprom in rubles, in an apparent warning shot to the rest of Europe.

Gas supply to Poland through the Yamal pipeline briefly halted early Wednesday before resuming, according to EU transmission data.

The decision to stop the supply – due at 8:00 CET – followed Polandannounced on Tuesday that it was imposing sanctions on 50 entities and individuals – including Russia’s largest gas company – following Moscow’s invasion of Moscow. Ukraine.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said Russia was “starting the gas blackmail of Europe”.

“Russia is trying to break the unity of our allies. Russia is also proving that energy resources are a weapon. This is why the EU must stand united and impose an embargo on energy resources, depriving the Russians of their energy weapons.

The move will be of grave concern to countries most dependent on Russian gas, such as Germany, but at a hastily organized press conference Polish ministers said they had enough supplies to meet a interruption while accusing Gazprom of having violated Contract.

In other developments:

  • British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to call on Ukraine’s allies to “double” military production, including planes and tanks, in a speech on Wednesday. Truss said the UK’s new approach “will be based on three areas: military strength, economic security and deeper global alliances”. A Russian victory would have “terrible consequences across the world,” Truss is expected to say. “We must be ready for the long term and redouble our efforts to support Ukraine.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he believed Russia was trying to destabilize the Transdniestrian region of Moldova after a series of explosions there, adding that the Ukrainian armed forces are ready for a possible escalation of Russian troops in the temporarily occupied territory. “The objective is obvious: to destabilize the situation in the region, to threaten Moldova. They show that if Moldova supports Ukraine, there will be certain steps,” Zelenskiy said in his last national address.

  • A series of explosions were heard in the Russian town of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, amid reports of an ammunition dump that had caught fire, local officials said. Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said he woke up “to a loud noise like an explosion” around 3.35am in a to update posted on Telegram. The explosions come from the village of Staraya Nelidovka, located about 40 km from the border.

Following the threat of gas supplies from Russia, Anna Moskwa, Poland’s climate minister, said: “There are no concerns about gas shortages in our homes. It should be emphasized that only liquefied natural gas supplies the market sufficiently. LNG deliveries in [terminal] Świnoujście is growing – in 2015 there was one, in 2021 there were already 35. To date, he plans about 50 deliveries.

She added: “The appropriate diversification strategies we have in place allow us to feel safe in this situation.”

PGNiG, Poland’s largest gas supplier, said it would take legal action for breach of contract over Gazprom’s decision.

Russia currently supplies around 55% of Poland’s annual demand for around 21 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas, but the country’s government has always been pushing the EU and other Western allies to go further in punishing the Kremlin.

Later on Tuesday, Bulgaria’s energy ministry said it had been informed that gas supplies from Russia through the TurkStream pipeline would also cease on Wednesday. Once a close ally of Moscow, Bulgaria has severed many of its ties with Russia, supporting sanctions against Russia and providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Kiril Petkov, the country’s prime minister, and members of his coalition government were due to travel to Kyiv on Wednesday for aid talks with Ukrainian officials.

The Balkan country meets more than 90% of its gas needs with Russian imports, but the government has insisted that no restrictions will be imposed on domestic gas consumption.

The NGO Europe Beyond Coal has calculated that the EU has sent more than €41billion (£34.7billion) to Russia in fossil fuel payments since it invaded Ukraine there two months old.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has previously said he intends to ban Russian gas and oil imports by the end of the year and there has been a trend to diversify to cover the loss.

Yamal’s key pipeline transports natural gas from Russia to Poland and Germany, via Belarus. But the Polish government had clearly moved away from dependency by building a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Baltic port of Świnoujście, managed by Qatari and American companies, capable of handling 5 billion m3 of gas. It is extended to 7.5 billion m3 by 2023.

However, it remains to be seen to what extent Polish industry can count on this flow and other countries will worry about the development.

Moscow had warned its customers in March that they risked having their gas supply cut off if they did not pay in rubles.

The European Commission had nevertheless said that the companies should continue to pay Gazprom in the currency agreed in their contracts, of which around 97% are in euros or dollars.

The only European leader who has suggested paying Gazprom in rubles is Hungarian Viktor Orbán, whose right-wing government has had close ties with Putin’s regime for more than a decade.

The Kremlin’s decision comes as EU member states draw up a sixth wave of sanctions that could include imposing a cap on the price paid for Russian oil.

But there remains a reluctance in Berlin, in particular, to go hard on gas imports given the German economy’s dependence on Russia in this area.

In early April, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the Bundestag that the country’s energy dependence had “increased over decades and could not be eliminated overnight”, as this would lead to rationing of energy. energy for industry and the potential closure of its largest factories.

On Tuesday, Gazprom denied stopping gas flows to Poland. Spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said: “Today Poland has to pay for gas supply according to the new payment procedure.”

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