Poland and Bulgaria say Russia cuts gas supply over refusal to pay in rubles

Polish and Bulgarian officials said Russia was suspending deliveries of natural gas from their countries from Wednesday.

The governments of the two European countries said on Tuesday that Russian energy giant Gazprom had informed them that it was cutting gas supplies.

The suspensions would be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that “unfriendly” foreign buyers should pay state-owned Gazprom in rubles instead of other currencies.

Europe imports large quantities of Russian natural gas to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry. Imports continued despite the war in Ukraine. About 60 percent of imports are paid for in euros and the rest in dollars.

Putin’s request was apparently intended to help bolster the Russian currency amid the war in Ukraine. European leaders said they would not comply, arguing that forcing them to buy rubles and then pay Gazprom violated the terms of the contracts and their sanctions against Russia.

Proposal “in breach” of contract, according to Bulgaria

“[The] The Russian proposal for a two-step payment procedure is in breach of the current contract and entails considerable risks for Bulgaria, including the risk of making payments without receiving any gas deliveries from Russia,” the Bulgarian government said.

Bulgaria said it was working with state gas companies to find alternative sources to replace the supplies it receives from Russia through the TurkStream gas pipeline.

The government has said no restrictions on domestic gas consumption will be imposed for now, even though the Balkan country of 6.5 million people meets more than 90% of its gas needs with Russian imports .

Poland strongly supports Ukraine

Poland’s state-owned gas company, PGNiG, said it was told by Gazprom that deliveries through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline would stop on Wednesday.

Poland not only refused to pay for natural gas in rubles, but the country was also a strong supporter of neighboring Ukraine during the Russian invasion. It is a transit point for weapons that the United States and other Western countries have supplied to Ukraine.

The Polish government confirmed this week that it was sending tanks to the Ukrainian army. On Tuesday, he announced a list of sanctions targeting 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom.

Pipelines near a gas processing facility, operated by the Gazprom company, are seen in Russia’s arctic Yamal peninsula in May 2019. The Yamal pipeline transports natural gas from Russia to Poland and the Germany, via Belarus. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The Yamal pipeline transports natural gas from Russia to Poland and Germany via Belarus. Poland receives some nine billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually.

PGNiG said Russia’s demand to be paid in rubles was a breach of Yamal’s contract.

Flow charts published on the website of the European Network of Gas Transmission System Operators showed drastic drops in gas flows at entry points in Kondratki, a town in eastern Poland, and Vysokaye, in Belarus.

Russian news agency Tass quoted Gazprom as saying Poland must pay for its gas supplies under a new procedure.

“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes”

Poland emerged as the first European customer to have its gas shipments halted by Russia.

Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa stressed that Poland was prepared for such a situation after working for years to reduce its dependence on Russian energy sources. She said the country has been effectively independent with regard to Russian gas for some time.

“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Moskwa tweeted.

The Minister repeated this message at a press conference, saying: “The appropriate diversification strategies that we have put in place allow us to feel safe in this situation,” she said.

Poland has been working since the 1990s to wean itself off Russian energy and was already on track to end its dependence on Russian gas this year. He recently decided to stop imports of Russian coal.

The government in Warsaw has urged other European countries to reduce their dependence on Russian energy sources.