Russia has halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying in roubles, in a move denounced by European leaders as blackmail, Reuters reported.
The decision comes as Russia’s own economy wilts under sanctions and Western countries are sending more arms to Kyiv despite warnings from the Kremlin to back off.
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Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, suspended gas supplies “due to absence of payments in roubles”, as stipulated in a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin that aims to soften the impact of sanctions.
“The sooner everyone in Europe recognises that they cannot depend on Russia for trade, the sooner it will be possible to guarantee stability in European markets,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on Wednesday.
While the president of the European Commission said Gazprom’s move was “yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail”, EU member state ambassadors asked the executive for clearer guidance on whether sending euros breached sanctions.
France will host a meeting of EU energy ministers on May 2 to discuss how to deal with Russia’s move.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia remained a reliable energy supplier and denied it was engaging in blackmail.
He declined to say how many countries had agreed to switch to paying for gas in roubles but other European customers said gas supplies were flowing normally.
With so many EU members reliant on Russian energy, the European Commission has said the EU’s gas buyers can engage with Russia’s payment scheme provided certain conditions are met.
Germany’s main importer, Uniper, said it could pay without violations. Austria and Hungary, among others, have also indicated they will take this route.
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Meanwhile, Australia’s Coronado Global Resources Inc has flagged heightened requests for metallurgical coal from existing and new European customers ahead of a European Union ban on Russian coal imports in August.
European and Asian coal importers are expected to join the scramble for alternative sources of the fuel as the EU sanction on Russia looms, analysts and company officials said earlier this month.