Russia suspends gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria: NPR


The logo of Russian energy giant Gazprom is pictured at a gas station in Moscow.

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russia suspends gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria: NPR

The logo of Russian energy giant Gazprom is pictured at a gas station in Moscow.

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

LVIV, Ukraine — Russian energy giant Gazprom said it has halted fuel exports to Poland and Bulgaria, marking rising tensions with the European Union over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

In a press release, Gazprom attributed this stoppage to the refusal of the Polish and Bulgarian gas companies to pay in rubles, the Russian currency. The gas is transported via the Yamal gas pipeline, which connects Siberia to Europe.

President Vladimir Putin ordered countries deemed “unfriendly” by Moscow to settle their gas bills in rubles last month – a response to Western sanctions against Russia for its military actions in Ukraine.

The move was widely seen as an effort to prop up the currency and retaliate against Europe amid an onslaught of Western sanctions on Russia’s banking sector.

Writing on his Telegram channel, Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, compared the shutdown to blackmail and said Russia had “always” ignored the rules. He urged the EU to remain united in supporting Ukraine and depriving Russia of its “energy weapons”. The European Union buys a significant part of its fuel from Russia.

The Kremlin defended the change as “necessary” given what it called “unprecedented hostile measures” – including a decision to freeze the Russian central bank’s foreign currency reserves.

“They blocked our accounts or – to speak in Russian – they ‘stole’ a significant part of our reserves,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters.

Peskov compared the currency change to simply opening a new ruble bank account.

“Russia was and remains a trusted source for gas deliveries and remains committed to all of its contractual obligations,” Peskov added.

Polish gas company PGNiG says the shutdown has not affected energy delivery to its customers.

“We are ready,” Poland’s Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We have energy diversification strategies in place that allow us to feel secure.” Poland imports energy from elsewhere and also has plenty of fuel in stock, she says.

The other target country, Bulgaria, imports more than 90% of its gas from Russia. Julian Popov, Bulgaria’s former environment minister, says his country has reserves as well as the capacity to import gas from neighboring countries, including Turkey and Greece.

Europe can expect the same from Russia

Popov sees Russia’s fuel cut as a “warning” to Bulgaria about its delivery of ammunition to Ukraine.

“The big headline for me in all of this is that we’re transferring this concept, the fog of war, to energy markets,” he says. With Gazprom, “everything in the past was about predictability, and now everything is becoming unpredictable”.

Europe should learn to live in this kind of world, says Popov.

He adds that Russia may retaliate against Poland because its government has been so outspoken about Russia’s war on Ukraine. Poland is one of the most vocal critics of the EU’s reliance on Russian fuel imports. The Polish government announced earlier this month that it would phase out all Russian fuel imports by the end of the year and urged other member states to do the same. The EU was planning a more gradual phase-out – by 2030 – but planned to drastically reduce its purchases of Russian gas by the end of the year.

Russia is gaining a reputation as an unreliable gas supplier

Aleksandra Gawlikowska-Fyk, director of the energy sector program at Forum Energii, a Warsaw-based think tank, says Poland is protected for now, as warm weather requires less energy. But, she adds, the shutdown could affect energy prices.

“It was probably taken into account by the EU,” she says. “It underscores the type of unreliable supplier that Russia and Gazprom are.”

Agata Łoskot-Strachota, senior energy policy researcher at the Center for Oriental Studies in Warsaw, says some EU countries, such as Germany and Hungary, rely heavily on Russian fuel imports and are more cautious about denunciation of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

By turning off the gas tap, she says, “what Russia can do is divide Europe. We must do everything we can to ensure that this does not happen.”

The EU planned a more gradual elimination of Russian fuel imports by 2030, but also intended to drastically reduce its purchases of Russian gas by the end of the year. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Wednesday that the EU’s response to “Gazprom’s blackmail… will be immediate, united and coordinated.”


npr

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button