Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Russia has further cut off gas supplies to Europe, after national energy giant Gazprom shut off the taps of a major Dutch trader and halted flows to Denmark and Germany.
Tuesday’s escalating economic battle over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine follows the EU’s overnight decision to place a embargo on most Russian oil imports as part of its financial sanctions against the Kremlin.
Related: EU leaders agree partial embargo on Russian oil imports
EU leaders said the ban would immediately affect 75% of Russian oil imports, rising to 90% by the end of the year.
Gazprom extended its gas cuts on Tuesday by halting supply to GasTerra, which buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government.
He later said he would also cut off gas flows to the Danish energy company Ørsted and to Shell Energy for its contract to supply gas to Germany, as the two companies did not make payments in rubles.
GasTerra said it had found contracts elsewhere for the supply of the 2 billion cubic meters of gas it expected to receive from Gazprom by October.
Ahead of the late-night talks in Brussels, Denmark had signaled that it expected an end to its supply of Russian gas. However, Ørsted said on Monday that a gas cut would not immediately endanger the country’s gas supply.
Moscow has already cut off natural gas supplies to Bulgaria, Poland and Finland, after they refused to pay in russian rubles.
Gazprom said it was told by Shell Energy Europe Limited that it would not pay in rubles for gas supplied to Germany. He added that the contract stipulated gas deliveries of up to 1.2 billion cubic meters per year.
Gazprom said Shell and Ørsted had failed to pay for gas deliveries by the end of the May 31 working day and would stop deliveries until they had paid in accordance with Russian demands.
The Kremlin demanded payments for exports in rubles earlier in the spring, after the country’s currency fell off a cliff following the invasion of Ukraine and Russia was barred from the Swift international banking messaging system during the first rounds of sanctions.
The European Commissioner for Energy had previously said that Member States should reject Moscow’s demandsbecause the mechanism put in place by Russia would have violated the bloc’s sanctions, even if it left them without an alternative gas supply.
Supply cuts have pushed already high gas prices even higher, contributing to soaring inflation and also putting pressure on European governments and businesses to find alternative supplies and infrastructure, including including storage facilities.
The EU has come under fire in recent weeks for not going far enough in its sanctions against Russia. Ahead of Monday’s summit in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on European leaders to show unity against Vladimir Putin.
Under a compromise plan from the summit, Russian oil transported through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline for use by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia would be exempt from the EU embargo.
Despite this agreement, the Estonian Prime Minister called on the EU to go further and work on a seventh round of sanctions against Russia, which would include restrictions on gas imports.
However, Kaja Kallas said she wasn’t convinced that would happen. “I think gas should be in the seventh package, but I’m also realistic,” Kallas told reporters as he arrived for a second day of talks in Brussels. “I don’t think it will be there.”