The European Union accuses Russia of “blackmail” after cutting off gas to Poland and Bulgaria 2022-04-27 08:30:00


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BRUSSELS – The European Union accused Russia on Wednesday of “blackmail” after state-controlled Gazprom said it had cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

“Gazprom’s unilateral announcement of a halt to gas deliveries to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as a tool for blackmail,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “This is unjustified and unacceptable.”

The move escalates the confrontation between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine and could complicate the heated debate in the European Union over weaning the bloc from Russian energy.

Russia’s gas company, Gazprom, halted gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria on April 27 (Video: Reuters)

Russia cuts gas to Poland and Bulgaria, stoking tensions with the European Union over Ukraine

This is the first supply disruption since Russian President Vladimir Putin said “unfriendly countries” will have to pay for natural gas in rubles. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the extortion charges on Wednesday and also warned of further cuts if countries did not succumb to Russia’s demands.

EU officials moved quickly to reassure citizens. “There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Polish Climate Minister Anna Muskoa said on Twitter. The Bulgarian government also said it had secured alternative gas supplies and pledged that there would be no domestic restrictions on consumption.

At a press conference in Brussels, von der Leyen confirmed that Poland and Bulgaria get gas from other countries. She said the EU had drawn up “contingency plans” to stop the work, and officials would meet soon to discuss additional plans.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has worked with the United States and other allies to punish Moscow, but member states continue to buy Russian oil and gas. The Baltic states and some other Eastern European countries have called for a blanket ban. Others, notably Germany, resisted, saying they needed more time to prepare alternative supplies.

The possibility of an additional cut to EU plans could add momentum.

The latest Russian moves will only accelerate the EU’s goal of “phasing out” Russian energy, Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia, chirp Wednesday.

Norbert Röttgen, a lawmaker from Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union, She said The oil and gas embargo is now a matter of “EU solidarity”.

There were already signs of movement. During a visit to Warsaw on Tuesday, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Berlin was days away from striking a deal that could enable it to find an alternative to the 12 percent of the country’s oil that still comes from Russia.

The potential deal between Germany and Poland would attempt to secure supplies to Germany’s Schwidt refinery, operated by Russia’s state-owned energy giant Rosneft, from the Polish Block pipeline.

Jens Sudekum, professor of international economics at the Dusseldorf Institute for Competition Economics and an adviser to the German government, said the timing of Moscow’s move indicated it came in response to the deal.

“Putin’s decision to cut off Poland from gas was essentially an act of retaliation against the block pipeline deal,” Swedencom wrote on Twitter.

at statment Gazprom, which was published on Wednesday, said it had stopped supplying natural gas to Polish gas company PGNiG and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz because they did not comply with the order to pay in the Russian currency. Gazprom said the suspension, starting on Wednesday, would continue “until payments are made” in rubles.

PGNiG confirmed the cut, saying that deliveries of natural gas from Gazprom had “completely stopped”.

It was not clear if and how the gas cut would affect gas transit through Poland and Bulgaria to other European Union countries. Gazprom said that if PGNiG or Bulgargaz withdraw gas intended for third countries, supplies to these countries will “reduce by the volume sold”.

Ukrainian officials were quick to criticize Gazprom’s decision, saying the move was in retaliation for the European Union’s strong support for Kiev – and in particular Poland, which has been vocal in its support and has been a hub for the flow of arms and supplies to Ukraine.

Andrei Yermak, chief of staff of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that Russia had begun “to blackmail Europe with gas.”

“We see the efforts to lift the antecedent and ignore any rules and obligations, which is typical of the Russians,” Yermak said in a post on Telegram. Russia is trying to break the unity of our allies. … That’s why the European Union needs to unite and put an embargo on energy resources, depriving the Russians of their energy weapons. “

Officials and experts have long worried that the EU is too dependent on Moscow for energy. The two countries targeted Tuesday are particularly vulnerable: Poland gets more than 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia and Bulgaria more than 70 percent, according to European Union data.

The European Union pledged last month to wean off Russian fossil fuels by 2030, starting to cut gas imports by two-thirds by the end of this year.

Some analysts said on Tuesday that Gazprom’s move could accelerate the severing of ties. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, called it “another sign of Russia’s politicization of existing agreements,” and predicted that it would “only accelerate European efforts to move away from Russian energy supplies.”

Morris spoke from Berlin and Beach from Seoul. Irinka Hiromutska and Annabelle Chapman contributed to this report.