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WARSAW, Poland: Polish and Bulgarian officials said on Tuesday that Russia was suspending deliveries of natural gas from their countries after refusing to pay for their supplies in Russian rubles.
The governments of both European Union and NATO members said Russian energy giant Gazprom had informed them it was cutting gas supplies from Wednesday.
The suspensions would be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that “unfriendly” foreign buyers should pay state-owned Gazprom in rubles instead of dollars and euros. No country except Hungary agreed to pay in bules.
If Gazprom suspends deliveries to other countries, it could cause economic hardship in Europe, leading to higher gas prices and possibly rationing. Germany is particularly vulnerable due to its heavy dependence on Russian gas. But the cuts would also be a blow to Russia’s own economy.
Poland was a strong supporter of neighboring Ukraine during the Russian invasion. It is a transit point for weapons that the United States and other Western countries have supplied to Ukraine.
The Polish government confirmed this week that it was sending tanks to the Ukrainian army. On Tuesday, he announced a list of sanctions targeting 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom.
Bulgaria, once one of Moscow’s closest allies, severed many of its old ties with Russia after a new liberal government took over last fall and after Putin’s army invaded Ukraine. He supported sanctions against Russia and provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Bulgaria has been reluctant to provide military aid to Ukraine, but Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and members of his coalition government are traveling to Kyiv on Wednesday for talks with Ukrainian officials on further aid to the country.
Poland’s state-owned gas company, PGNiG, said it was told by Gazprom that its deliveries through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline would stop on Wednesday morning.
Later, Bulgaria’s energy ministry said it was informed that the supply of Russian gas to Bulgaria via the TurkStream gas pipeline would also cease on Wednesday.
Europe imports large quantities of Russian natural gas to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry. Imports continued despite the war in Ukraine.
Around 60% of imports are paid for in euros and the rest in dollars. Putin’s request was apparently intended to help bolster the Russian currency amid Western sanctions imposed during the war.
European leaders said they would not meet the ruble requirement, arguing it violated the terms of the contracts and their sanctions against Russia.
The Yamal pipeline transports natural gas from Russia to Poland and Germany, via Belarus. Poland receives some 9 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year, meeting about 45% of the country’s needs.
The Polish gas company said it was considering legal action over the Russian payment claim. But Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa stressed that Poland was prepared for such a situation after working for years to reduce its dependence on Russian energy sources.
Several years ago it opened its first liquefied natural gas, or LNG, terminal at Swinoujscie on the Baltic Sea coast, while later this year a pipeline bringing gas from Norway, called the “Baltic Pipe “, must become operational.
“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Moskwa tweeted.
Bulgaria said the new gas payment system created considerable risks for the country and that it was working with state gas companies to find alternative sources to replace the supplies it receives from Russia. .
But the Bulgarian government has said no restrictions on domestic gas consumption will be imposed for now, even though the Balkan country of 6.5 million people meets more than 90% of its gas needs with Russian imports.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States was preparing for such a move by Russia “in anticipation of the possibility of it happening or a decrease in what ‘They provide”.
“Part of that has been asking some countries in Asia that have excess supply to provide that to Europe. We’ve done that in some cases, and it’s been an ongoing effort,” Psaki said.

Sherry J. Basler