In response to the crippling economic sanctions imposed by European Union member nations on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded in March that those same European nations pay in roubles for the Russian natural gas they have become heavily reliant upon or be cut off from that supply.
Nearly all of Europe refused to accede to that demand, and now it appears that Putin has begun to make good on his threat by halting the delivery of Russian natural gas to Bulgaria and Poland, Breitbart reported.
That action reportedly caused gas prices across Europe to shoot up by roughly 20 percent and elicited cries of “blackmail” from a top European leader.
Pay in Russian roubles or get cut off from the gas supply
Breitbart noted that according to Polish sources, the supply of Russian natural gas was cut off at some point Tuesday night, and that initial speculation was confirmed by Russia itself Wednesday morning.
Russian news agency TASS reported that Russian energy giant Gazprom announced that it had notified both Bulgaria and Poland “of the suspension of gas supplies from April 27 until the payments are made according to the procedure outlined in the Decree” — the order from Putin in March that payments be made in Russian roubles instead of U.S. dollars or euros.
The suspension appears to only apply to deliveries intended solely for Bulgaria and Poland, and Russian gas is still flowing through pipelines that run through those nations to other destinations in Central Europe.
That said, Gazprom further noted that any attempts at “unauthorized offtake” or siphoning of the Russian gas in those pipelines by the two suspended countries would result in a further reduction of the flow intended for other European nations, such as Germany.
Breitbart noted that according to Polish media, Poland stood defiant in the face of Russia’s move and insisted that it had sufficient supplies to meet its needs. The Polish government further asserted that what Russia had done was a breach of contract and that it was considering pursuing legal action in response.
European Commission calls Russian move on gas payments “blackmail”
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a statement that said, “The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail.”
“This is unjustified and unacceptable. And it shows once again the unreliability of Russia as a gas supplier,” she added and went on to assert that preparations and “contingency plans” had already been put in place to “ensure alternative deliveries” of natural gas from other international suppliers.
That may indeed be the case, but according to The Hill in an early April analysis of Europe’s dependence upon Russian natural gas, those other suppliers will have large shoes to fill just in regard to meeting the needs of Bulgaria and Poland, to say nothing of other European nations that are even more dependent upon Russian energy and remain at risk of being cut off at any point in the near future.
For what it is worth, as of 2020 data, roughly 73 percent of the natural gas imported by Bulgaria came from Russia. As for Poland, it imported approximately 370 billion cubic feet of Russian natural gas in 2021 and, as of 2020, imported gas to Poland accounted for roughly 4 percent of all gas exported by Russia.