European countries accuse Russia of “blackmailing” natural gas

Polish and Bulgarian leaders accused Moscow of using natural gas to blackmail their countries after the Russian state energy company stopped supplying their countries with a gaseous environment. The leaders of the European Union echoed these comments and held an emergency meeting on Russia’s actions.

gas cut off Poland and Bulgaria came after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “unfriendly” countries would have to start paying for gas in rubles, the Russian currency, which Bulgaria and Poland refused to do.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said in a statement that it has not received any payments from Poland and Bulgaria since April 1 and has been suspending their supplies since Wednesday. And if these countries pump out Russian gas destined for other European consumers, supplies to Europe will be reduced by that amount, the gas company said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Gazprom’s announcement “is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as a tool of blackmail.”

Europe is not without some leverage in the dispute; at current prices, he pays Russia $400 million a day for gas, money that Putin would lose in a full blackout.

Fatih Birol, head of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, described Russia’s actions as “arming energy supplies,” adding that it is “clearer than ever that Europe needs to act quickly to reduce its dependence on Russian energy resources.”

Russia, however, dismissed the idea of ​​blackmail, warning that it could cut off gas supplies to other European consumers if they also refused to switch to ruble payments.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia’s demand to switch to paying for gas in rubles was the result of Western actions that froze Russian hard currency assets. He said they were effectively “stolen” by the West in an “unprecedented hostile act.”

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehemmer said Putin recently assured him that his country would be allowed to continue paying for gas in euros. Austria is not a member of NATO and strongly opposes sanctions on Russian energy, but supports other European Union sanctions against Russia and calls for an investigation into apparent war crimes in Ukraine by Russian forces.

Nehammer tweeted to debunk the “fake news”. that Austria agreed to pay in rubles before it could be “spread further by Russian propaganda”.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the Polish parliament that he believed the suspension was in retaliation for new sanctions against Russia that Warsaw had imposed in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Morawiecki promised that the cessation of supplies would not frighten Poland. He said the country was safe from an energy crisis thanks to years of efforts to secure gas supplies from other countries.

Polish MPs stood and applauded when he said that Russian “gas blackmail” would not affect Poland.

During a visit to Prague, Polish President Andrzej Duda Duda said that Russia’s actions did not come as a surprise and that Poland was ready for it.

New sanctions against Russia, announced on Tuesday, target 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom. Hours later, Poland said it had received notice that Gazprom was halting gas supplies due to non-compliance with regulations. demand payment in Russian rubles. Polish gas company PGNiG said gas supplies from the Yamal gas pipeline had ceased early Wednesday morning.

Bulgaria said on Tuesday that Gazprom had also informed it that gas supplies to the country would stop at the same time.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov called Gazprom’s suspension of gas supplies to his country a “gross violation of their contract” and “blackmail”.

“We will not fall for such a racket,” he added.

Russia’s actions have raised fears that other countries could be next targets as Western countries step up their support for Ukraine as the war enters its third month.

The Greek government held its own emergency meeting in Athens on Wednesday. Greece’s next scheduled payment to Gazprom is due on May 25, and the government must decide whether it will comply with the requirement to pay in rubles.

Greece is building up its liquefied natural gas storage capacity and plans to switch several sectors of industry from natural gas to diesel as an emergency source of energy in case of contingency. He also canceled a program to cut domestic coal production.

If European countries decide not to pay in rubles, Russia could theoretically sell its oil somewhere else, such as India and China, because oil is mostly transported by sea.

He has fewer gas options because the pipeline network that transports gas from huge Russian fields in northwestern Siberia on the Yamal Peninsula does not connect to pipelines that go to China. And Russia has only limited opportunities for the export of super-cooled liquefied gas by sea.

Russian gas accounted for 45% of Poland’s total gas consumption before the shutdown. But Poland relies on coal for 70% of its energy needs, and gas makes up only about 7% of the country’s total energy mix.

Russian gas supplies to Poland should have ended by the end of this year. Poland has worked for many years to secure supplies from other countries.

A few years ago, the country opened its first liquefied natural gas or LNG terminal at Swinoujscie on the Baltic coast. The pipeline from Norway is due to start operating this year.

In Bulgaria, the main consumers of gas are district heating companies. Only about 120,000 households use gas. Bulgaria’s energy minister said his country could meet consumer needs for at least one month.

“Alternative supplies are available and Bulgaria hopes that alternative routes and supplies will also be provided at the EU level,” Energy Minister Aleksandr Nikolov said.

— Vanessa Gera and Veselin Toshkov, Associated Press