Russia makes good on its threat and cuts gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria | International


Russia on Wednesday made good on its threat to cut gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria for their refusal to pay in rubles. The Russian state company Gazprom has totally stopped its gas exports to both countries, the Russian energy giant announced in a statement and was later confirmed by Polish national radio. Poland and Bulgaria are the first countries to which Russia, which represents their main gas supplier for both, cuts off that supply, in what constitutes Moscow’s harshest response to the sanctions imposed by the West for the war in Ukraine. Russian gas continues, however, to flow to the rest of the European countries, through the network of Russian gas pipelines, including the Yamal-Europe, which runs through Polish territory. Bulgaria has asked Brussels for a common position on the measure adopted by Moscow, which the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has described as “unacceptable blackmail”.

“Gazprom has completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgargaz (Bulgaria) and PGNiG (Poland) due to the absence of payments in rubles,” the Russian state company said in a statement. “Payments for gas supplied from April 1 were to be made in rubles using the new payment details, about which the counterparties were informed in a timely manner,” Gazprom’s text continues.

On Tuesday, the Polish gas company, PGNIG, had already announced that the interruption of the flow of Russian gas was scheduled for Friday, when Moscow’s deadline to start paying the bill for that hydrocarbon in rubles expired, after last 31 In March, President Vladimir Putin formulated this demand for the countries he defined as “hostile”. Shortly after Tuesday’s announcement by the Polish state-owned company, the Russian energy company reported in turn that supplies to Bulgaria will also be cut off from Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Energy confirmed to Reuters.

The Polish reaction was to consider that the Russian presidential decree was not binding on Poland. Its Climate and Environment Minister, Anna Moskwa, summed up her country’s position by stating that Putin’s decrees “are not in force in Poland and there are no reasons” to stop deliveries through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Moskwa also recalled that her country has always met its payment obligations and that she has no debts to Gazprom. “This is a breach of contract and the company will take the appropriate measures,” warned the minister.

After confirming the supply of the hydrocarbon, the head of the Climate and Environment portfolio has assured that “the gas stocks stored in Poland are around 80%” and that, for the time being, Poland “will not need to seek new supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The minister – who alluded to the fact that Poland can access gas supplies through gas pipelines that pass through the Czech Republic and Lithuania – stressed that her country will not suffer “gas shortages” and guaranteed that “supplies are assured”. Warsaw had already announced before the announcement of the interruption of the Russian gas supply its intention not to renew the contract with Moscow that expired at the end of the year.

The Polish state gas company, PGNiG, has warned, for its part, in a statement to Russia that this Russian measure is “a breach of the contract” between the two countries, for which it “will take appropriate measures to restore the delivery of gas under the agreed conditions and reserves the right to claim its contractual rights,” he added.

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On Tuesday, the Polish government had released a list with the names of 50 Russian companies and individuals with business interests in Poland who will be subject to new sanctions. Among the affected companies is the Polish subsidiary of Gazprom. These measures will include the freezing of funds and assets, as well as the confiscation of their rights to shares and dividends earned in Poland.

new threats

Gazprom’s statement on Wednesday is not limited to confirming compliance with the threat to stop gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria. The Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, which crosses Belarus and Poland, not only supplies these countries but also serves to route part of the Russian hydrocarbon to other European states such as Germany. For this reason, in its statement this Wednesday, Gazprom has warned Poland and Bulgaria that they must not “illegally” extract the gas that will continue to transit through the sections of the gas pipelines that run through their territory, under penalty of seeing how that process is interrupted. transit, which would decrease the volume of gas received by Moscow’s other European customers. The German Federal Network Agency has assured this Tuesday in its daily report that “the gas supply in Germany is stable”

Vyacheslav Volodin, president of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, has gone even further this Wednesday on his Telegram channel, advocating extending the cutoff of Russian gas supply to other “hostile” countries.

Poland is one of the European Union countries that most strongly advocates putting an end to dependence on Russia, a country from which until now it had acquired slightly less than half of the imported gas and which it hoped to reduce to zero as of October. Bulgaria also receives most of its gas supplies from Russia, although the dependency in this case is greater: up to 90% of the hydrocarbon they consume comes from Russia. As in the Polish case, Bulgargaz’s contract with Gazprom was ending this year and Sofia had already announced her intention not to renew it. The Minister of Energy, Alexander Nikolov, announced that Bulgaria is taking measures to guarantee supply and that for the time being there will be no need to restrict gas consumption.

Other European countries, such as Germany and Austria, warn that they are not ready to end this dependency. The European Commission has called for a two-thirds cut in imports of Russian oil and gas this year.

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