Russia’s Gazprom cuts off gas to Poland and Bulgaria, stoking European tensions
PGNiG confirmed the cut, saying its natural gas deliveries from Gazprom “have completely stopped”. He added that “at this time the situation is not affecting ongoing deliveries” to his customers, who he said were currently receiving fuel as they wanted.
Gazprom noted that some of its gas destined for other countries passes through Bulgaria and Poland, which are both members of NATO and the European Union. Gazprom said that if PGNiG or Bulgargaz were to siphon off gas destined for third countries, supplies from those countries “will be reduced by the volume that has been taken”. It is the first supply disruption since Russian President Vladimir Putin said “unfriendly countries” should pay for natural gas in rubles instead of other currencies. European leaders had rejected Putin’s request and accused Gazprom of violating its contracts.
The European Union relies heavily on Russian natural gas, which heats homes, cooks meals and generates electricity in most of the bloc’s 27 member states. Officials and experts have long feared the European Union is too dependent on Moscow and have warned the relationship could be militarized. The two countries targeted on Tuesday are particularly vulnerable: Poland gets more than 45% of its natural gas from Russia and Bulgaria more than 70%, according to EU data.
PGNiG said Gazprom sent it a letter informing it of the “complete suspension of deliveries” of the Yamal pipeline, which connects Siberia to Europe. After the announcement, Polish officials insisted the country had sufficient gas reserves.
“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” said Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa. said on Twitter.
The Bulgarian government also said it had secured alternative gas supplies and there would be no national restrictions on consumption.
Ukrainian officials were quick to criticize Gazprom’s decision, saying it was retaliation against the European Union for its unwavering support for Kyiv, especially Poland, which particularly expressed its support and was a hub for arms and supplies entering Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia had started “blackmailing Europe with gas”.
“We see the efforts to up the ante and ignore all the rules and obligations, which is typical for Russians.” Yermak said in a message to Telegram. “Russia is trying to break the unity of our allies. … That is why the EU must be united and impose an embargo on energy resources, depriving the Russians of their energy weapons.”
European energy imports have been a flashpoint for years, and they have come under renewed scrutiny since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. Russia remains the bloc’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and solid fossil fuels, such as coal, and Zelensky has urged the European Union to cancel its “blood money” payments for energy from Moscow.
EU presents plan to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year, without boycott
Late last year, amid a deepening energy crisis, the European Union was already looking for ways to break free from its reliance on Russian imports, with some lawmakers accusing the Kremlin of limiting energy. gas supply to inflate prices and pressure European regulators to speed up approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
But the imports have continued, even as the war in Ukraine has grown increasingly brutal and European leaders have leveled strong criticism at Putin. Last month, the European Union’s executive branch outlined an ambitious plan to wean the bloc off Russian fossil fuels by 2030, relying instead on other sources and increasing renewable energy production. . The proposal came to a halt before the immediate and total ban on Russian oil and gas enacted by the United States, but it would cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year alone, a dramatic step.
“We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the time.
Yet even one of the commission’s senior officials acknowledged that the change would be “very harsh”, leading to price increases and possible domestic political unrest.
On Tuesday, some analysts said Gazprom’s move could hasten the severing of ties. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, called it “yet another sign of Russia’s politicization of existing agreements”, and he predicted that it would “only accelerate efforts to move away from Russian energy supplies”.
Irynka Hromotska and Annabelle Chapman contributed to this report.