EU accuses Russia of “blackmail” after cutting off gas to Poland and Bulgaria 2022-04-27 06:25:40

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head for European Union Accused Russia From “blackmail” Wednesday after it moved to cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria for refusing to pay in rubles.

Russian gas giant Gazprom said earlier in the day that it had shut down gas to the two European Union countries in response to unpaid energy bills for April when they refused to comply with Moscow’s demands and pay in the Russian currency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the requirement that all countries must pay gas duties in rubles in late March in a bid to boost his faltering economy amid tough international sanctions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, chairs the main event at "Stand up for Ukraine" The Global Campaign to Pledge Funds for Ukraine and its Refugees, at the Water Palace, in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, April 9, 2022.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, chairs the main event of the global campaign “Stand up for Ukraine” pledging funds for Ukraine and its refugees, at the Water Palace, in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, April 9, 2022.
(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Ursula von der Leyen calls for Russia’s decision to abolish black gas

“Gazprom’s unilateral announcement of halting gas deliveries to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as a tool for blackmail,” EU President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

“This is unjustified and unacceptable. It shows once again the unreliability of Russia as a supplier of gas,” she added.

Von der Leyen said EU countries are “prepared for this scenario” and have been in close contact to identify other ways to supply Poland and Bulgaria with their energy needs.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also denounced Russia’s move, describing it as “blackmail” and vowing before his country’s parliament that Moscow would not frighten Warsaw.

Morawiecki said he believed the sudden cut was in response to the sanctions Warsaw imposed on 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom, on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the launch ceremony of Gazprom's Amur gas processing plant, via video conference, at the state residence in Novo Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, on June 9, 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the launch ceremony of Gazprom’s Amur gas processing plant, via video conference, at the state residence in Novo Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, on June 9, 2021.
(Getty Images)

The European Union and the United States announced a joint task force to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas

Poland received 45 percent of its gas needs from Russia, but the Polish prime minister said his country would be in good shape given previous gas arrangements reached with other countries.

A new pipeline dubbed “Baltic Pipe” will direct gas from Norway and Poland – which initially depended on only nine percent of their energy needs from gas.

The pipeline is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

FILE - A Belarusian worker works at a gas compression station for the Yamal-Europe pipeline near Nesvizh, about 81 miles southwest of the capital, Minsk, Belarus, December 29, 2006.

FILE – A Belarusian worker works at a gas compression station for the Yamal-Europe pipeline near Nesvizh, about 81 miles southwest of the capital, Minsk, Belarus, December 29, 2006.
(AP Photo/Sergei Grits, file)

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Warsaw pledged earlier this year to cut dependence on Russian gas by the end of 2022 in response to its deadly war in Ukraine.

The European Union said it was working on a “coordinated” response to the Russian move and pledged to stand behind Poland and Bulgaria.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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