Russia’s Gazprom “completely” suspends gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria

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“Bulgaria and Poland are transit countries. In case of unauthorized withdrawal of Russian gas… transit shipments will be reduced by the same amounts,” Gazprom warns.

Photo: SERGEI GRITS/AP PHOTO/PICTURE ALLIANCE / Deutsche Welle

“Gazprom has completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgargaz and PGNiG due to the absence of ruble payments,” Gazprom said in a statement issued on Wednesday (04.27.2022), referring to gas companies from Bulgaria and Poland.

This is the Kremlin’s toughest response yet to Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict: it is the first time Russia has cut off gas supplies to its European customers since Moscow launched its invasion on February 24.

The president of the Russian State Duma or Chamber of Deputies, Viacheslav Volodin, welcomed this cutoff of Russian gas supplies to two European countries and asked to extend the measure to “other unfriendly countries.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in March that his country would only accept payment for its shipments in the national currency, in response to sanctions taken to punish the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine.

Bulgaria and Poland, transit countries

Gazprom said that as of Tuesday night it had not received payment for April gas supplies from either Bulgargaz or PGNiG.

“Bulgaria and Poland are transit countries. In case of unauthorized withdrawal of Russian gas among the quantities in transit to third countries, the transit shipments will be reduced by the same quantities,” warned the Russian giant.

PGNiG confirmed on Wednesday “the complete suspension of the supply of natural gas supplied by Gazprom”.

“The situation does not affect the current supplies of PGNiG customers who receive fuel according to their demand,” the company said in a statement.

Poland and Bulgaria, which are two countries heavily dependent on Russian gas, both said Tuesday night that Gazprom had notified them of the suspension. The two members of NATO and the European Union (EU) say they are willing to obtain the missing gas from other sources.

First cut of Russian gas supply to the EU

Russia’s energy exports have largely continued since the war began, an exception to sanctions that have otherwise cut off Moscow from much of its trade with the West.

Ukraine accused Russia of blackmailing Europe for energy in a bid to bend its allies as the fighting entered its third month. Meanwhile, Moscow continues to demand that European countries pay for gas in rubles. Buyers say this violates contracts that require payment in euros.

Therefore, Bulgaria will reconsider all its contracts with Gazprom, including a transit one, in response to “unacceptable blackmail” by that Russian state entity, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said at the start of a rebroadcast session of the Council of Ministers. live on national television.

Contradictory information on the effects of the measure

Initially, there was conflicting information about how abruptly the cut was implemented. Earlier on Wednesday, the European Union’s network of gas transmission operators said gas to Poland had been restored after a brief outage.

For his part, the chief executive of Bulgarian gas network operator Bulgartransgaz had told Reuters that supplies to Bulgaria were still flowing. Hungary and Austria also said gas supplies were normal.

Poland’s state-owned PGNiG had said supplies from Gazprom, which covers around 50% of Poland’s national consumption, would be cut off at 8am (0600 GMT) on Wednesday. But Poland assured that it did not need to draw on reserves and that its gas storage was 76% full.

rml (afp, ap, Reuters, updated at 11:50 CET)

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