Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay in rubles, CNN reports.
Russia earlier this year demanded that countries that rely on their energy supplies must start paying for gas and oil in rubles instead of dollars or euros as the country’s currency plummeted amid widespread sanctions.
State-owned energy giant Gazprom on Wednesday announced it has fully halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland “due to their failure to pay in rubles.”
Bulgaria gets around 90% of its gas from Russia. Poland gets about 45%.
Both countries announced plans to wean off Russian energy after the Ukraine invasion but the abrupt halt could hurt their economies.
EU cries “blackmail”:
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of attempted “blackmail.”
“The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail. This is unjustified and unacceptable,” she said in a statement.
She said EU states are mapping out a coordinated response.
“We are prepared for this scenario. We are in close contact with all Member States,” she said. “We have been working to ensure alternative deliveries and the best possible storage levels across the EU. Member States have put in place contingency plans for just such a scenario and we worked with them in coordination and solidarity.”
Poland, Bulgaria downplay:
Polish energy giant PGNIG accused Gazprom of breach of contract but vowed that it could still meet demand for gas despite the “cessation of deliveries.”
Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said that “we are ready to be fully cut off” from Russian gas.
Bulgaria’s energy ministry said Russia’s demands were unacceptable and that it "fully fulfilled its obligations and has made all payments required under this contract in a timely manner, diligently and in accordance with its provisions."
The ministry added that “currently, no restrictions are required on gas consumption in Bulgaria.”