Poland and Bulgaria denounce Russian gas “blackmail” – WSB-TV Channel 2

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WARSAW, Poland — (AP) — Polish and Bulgarian leaders have accused Moscow of using natural gas to blackmail their country after the Russian state-controlled energy company abruptly announced it would stop supplying both European nations on Wednesday.

The gas cut came after Russian President Vladimir Putin said “unfriendly” countries should start paying for gas in roubles, Russia’s currency, something Bulgaria and Poland have refused to do.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the Polish parliament on Wednesday that he believed the action was revenge for new sanctions against Russia that Warsaw imposed during the war in Ukraine.

Morawiecki vowed that Poland would not be intimidated by the cut. He said the country was safe from an energy crisis thanks to years of efforts to secure gas from other countries.

Lawmakers stood and cheered when he said Russia’s “gas blackmail” would have no effect on Poland.

The new sanctions, announced on Tuesday, targeted 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including energy giant Gazprom. Hours later, Poland said it had been informed that Gazprom was cutting its gas supplies for failing to comply with the requirement to pay in Russian rubles.

The Polish gas company, PGNiG, said the gas supply from the Yamal pipeline stopped early on Wednesday, as Gazprom had warned.

Bulgaria said on Tuesday it had also been told by Gazprom that gas supplies to the country would end at the same time, but officials in Sofia said Wednesday morning they were still seeing gas coming.

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

“We will not succumb to such racketeering,” he added.

Russia’s move has raised wider concerns that other countries could be targeted next as Western nations ramp up support for Ukraine amid a war now in its third month.

European Union officials were holding emergency talks on Wednesday. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Gazprom’s announcement “is another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail”.

The Greek government was to hold its own emergency meeting in Athens. Greece’s next scheduled payment to Gazprom is due May 25, and the government must decide whether to comply with the request to finalize the transaction in roubles.

Greece is increasing its liquefied natural gas storage capacity and has contingency plans to switch several industrial sectors from gas to diesel as an emergency power source. He also canceled a program to reduce domestic coal production over the next two years.

Russian gas accounted for around 45% of Poland’s total gas consumption until the shutdown. But Poland is much more dependent on coal to heat homes and power industry, with gas accounting for around 7% of the country’s overall energy mix.

Russian supplies to Poland were already due to end later this year anyway. Poland has been working for many years to source from other countries.

Several years ago, the country opened its first liquefied natural gas, or LNG, terminal in Swinoujscie on the Baltic Sea coast. A pipeline from Norway is due to enter service this year.

Bulgaria’s energy minister said his country can meet user needs for at least a month.

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

Fatih Birol, the head of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, described Russia’s move as a “militarization of energy supplies”.

He said Russia’s decision “shows more clearly than ever that Europe must act quickly to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.”

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