Russian gas giant Gazprom has told heavily dependent Poland and Bulgaria that it will halt Russian gas shipments to the two countries from Wednesday.
“Bulgargaz received today, April 26, a notification that natural gas deliveries from Gazprom Export will be suspended from April 27,” Bulgaria’s economy ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The Bulgarian side has fully fulfilled its obligations and made all payments required under its current contract in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms,” he added.
Polish gas company PGNiG also announced on Tuesday that “on April 26, 2022, Gazprom informed PGNiG of its intention to completely suspend deliveries under the Yamal contract…on April 27.”
The Polish operator said that “all deliveries to customers are made according to their request”.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland’s gas storage facilities were 76% full and the country was ready to get needed supplies from sources other than the Yamal pipeline.
Poland imports liquefied gas through a terminal on the Baltic coast and hopes to receive gas from Norway through the Baltic Pipe project, which is due to be completed later this year and should eventually cover around 50% of Polish consumption.
Bulgaria’s energy ministry also said on Tuesday that its state gas operators Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz “have taken steps for alternative agreements for natural gas deliveries and to deal with the current situation.”
“At present, there is no need [imposing] any measure restricting consumption,” he added.
Bulgaria depends almost entirely on Russia for its annual consumption of around 3.0 billion cubic meters of gas.
The Balkan nation receives only small amounts from Azerbaijan which it hopes to increase after completing a key link with neighboring Greece later this year.
The country’s long-term contract with Gazprom expires at the end of this year.
Uncertainty over its renewal amid EU sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine has prompted Sofia to seek alternative supplies and routes, including liquefied natural gas from terminals in Greece and in Turkey.
Aggregated gas storage inventory data from EU gas operators showed Bulgaria’s only gas storage facility in Chiren was just over 17% full on Monday.
Bulgaria’s energy minister was due to provide more details about the halt in deliveries on Wednesday morning.
Gazprom did not confirm the cuts, but a senior company official was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying “Poland must pay for gas supplies under the new payment procedure.”
Following the introduction of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin warned EU member states that their gas supplies would be cut off unless they paid in rubles.
Western countries refused to do so, saying they could continue to pay in euros or dollars.
Bulgaria’s energy ministry did not explicitly say whether it refused to pay in roubles.
But he explained in the statement that “an analysis has shown that the new two-step payment procedure proposed by the Russian side is not in line with the current contract, valid by the end of this year”.
This, according to the ministry, “presents significant risks for the Bulgarian side, including that of making payments without receiving any gas delivery from the Russian side.”
The EU as a whole received around 40% of its gas supplies from Russia in 2021.