Russia halts gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria

Russia halts gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria

Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has halted gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria over the countries’ refusal to pay for supplies in roubles.

The firm said services will not be restored until payments are made in the Russian currency.

It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas in roubles.

Poland confirmed supplies had stopped, but Bulgaria said it was still unclear whether supplies had been halted.

Countries pay in advance for their gas, but as they have gone to pay for future supplies, Russia has stood firm on its demand made last month that new purchases need to be paid in roubles.

Nathan Piper, head of oil and gas research at Investec, said the halting of supplies to Poland and Bulgaria was the “start of Russia exerting economic pressure on Europe,” and a move which could “escalate” with other EU nations.

Poland’s deputy foreign minister said the country could cope without Gazprom’s gas and had “taken some decisions many years ago to prepare for such a situation”.

Polish state gas company PGNiG, which bought 53% of its gas imports from Gazprom in the first quarter of this year, described the suspension as a breach of contract, adding that the company would take steps to reinstate the gas supply.

Meanwhile in Sofia, energy minister Alexander Nikolov said Bulgaria had paid for Russian gas deliveries for April and claimed supplier Gazprom will be in breach of its current contract if it halts the flow.

Bulgaria, which relies on Gazprom for more than 90% of its gas supply, said it had taken steps to find alternative sources but no restrictions on gas consumption were currently required.

Bulgaria also transports Russian gas via an extension of the Turk Stream pipeline to neighbouring Serbia and from there to Hungary. Hungary and Austria also said gas supplies were normal.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the EU was “prepared for this scenario” and had been “working to ensure alternative deliveries and the best possible storage levels across the EU”.

UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News the decision to cut off gas supplies will have “a very damaging effect on Russia,” adding that such moves could lead to the country becoming “an economic pariah”.

Supplies from Russia account for about 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports.

However, many countries have pledged to move away from Russian energy in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the UK is to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, with gas to follow as soon as possible, and the EU is reducing gas imports by two-thirds.