WARSAW, RAW – Polish and Bulgarian officials say Moscow is cutting off natural gas deliveries to their countries due to their refusal to pay in Russian roubles, a demand made by President Vladimir Putin after sanctions were levied against his nation over the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom informed the two EU and NATO member nations that gas supplies would be suspended starting on Wednesday, their governments said.
The suspensions would be the first since Putin’s announcement last month that “unfriendly foreign buyers” would have to transact with Gazprom in roubles instead of dollars and euros.
Only Hungary has agreed to do so, with other countries rejecting the demand as an unacceptable, one-sided breach of contracts and a violation of sanctions.
If deliveries are halted to other countries as well, it could cause economic pain in Europe, driving up natural gas prices and possibly leading to rationing. However, it would also deal a blow to Russia’s own economy.
Wednesday’s cut-offs will affect deliveries of Russian gas to Poland through the Yamal-Europe pipeline, according to Polish state gas company PGNiG, and to Bulgaria via the TurkStream pipeline, that country’s energy ministry said.
The Yamal-Europe carries gas from Russia to Poland and Germany, via Belarus. Poland has been receiving about nine billion cubic meters annually, fulfilling 45 per cent of the country’s need.
PGNiG said it was considering legal action over Moscow’s payment demand.
But Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said Poland was prepared to make do after having worked to reduce its reliance on Russian energy sources.
“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Moskwa tweeted on Tuesday.
Bulgaria said it was working with state gas companies to find alternative sources and no restrictions on domestic consumption would be imposed for now, even though the Balkan country meets more than 90 per cent of its gas needs with Russian imports.
Poland has been a strong supporter of neighbouring Ukraine during the Russian invasion and has acted as a transit point for weapons the United States and other Western nations have provided to Kyiv.
Warsaw said this week that it, too, was sending weaponry to Ukraine’s army, in the form of tanks. On Tuesday it announced sanctions targeting 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom.
Bulgaria, once one of Moscow’s closest allies, has cut many of its ties with Russia after a new, liberal government took the reins last year and also after the invasion. It has supported sanctions against Russia and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Europe buys large amounts of Russian natural gas for residential heating, electrical generation and the fuel industry, with Germany particularly dependent on it. The imports have continued despite the war.
About 60 per cent of imports are paid in euros, and the rest in US dollars. Putin’s demand was apparently intended to help bolster the Russian currency against Western sanctions.