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Stop relying on Russia, Ukraine warns Europe after gas shutoff

Published 04/26/2022, 07:21 PM
Updated 04/27/2022, 05:04 PM
© Reuters. A view shows a railway station building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

By Marek Strzelecki, Tsvetelia Tsolova and Pavel Polityuk

WARSAW/SOFIA/KYIV (Reuters) - Europe should stop depending on Russia for trade after Moscow halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying in roubles, Ukraine said, as the shutoff exposed the continent's weaknesses and divisions on Wednesday.

The decision, denounced by European leaders as "blackmail", 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.

Gazprom (MCX:GAZP), 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.

On the battlefield, Ukraine reported that Russian troops had made gains in the east.

Russia reported a number of blasts on its side of the border, and a blaze at an arms depot. Kyiv called the explosions "karma".

Ukraine said Russian forces had used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson, the first big city it has seized. A series of powerful explosions caused by rockets hit the centre of Kherson late on Wednesday, Ria News agency reported.

The invasion of Ukraine has reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad in a conflict that has prompted fears of wider conflict in the West, unthought of for decades.

Moscow calls it a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies call the war an unprovoked act of aggression.

RECESSION FEARS

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.

Bulgaria and Poland, former Soviet-era satellites that have since joined the EU and NATO, are the only two European countries with Gazprom contracts due to expire at the end of 2022, which meant their search for alternatives was under way.

Warsaw has been one of the Kremlin's most vocal opponents over the war.

Bulgaria has long had warmer relations with Russia, but Prime Minister Kirill Petkov, who took office last year, has denounced the invasion. He was due in Kyiv on Wednesday to meet Zelenskiy.

The cut-off comes as the weather turns warmer and the need for gas heating dwindles. Poland says it has ample gas in storage, and Bulgaria is seeking supplies from Greece and Turkey.

But if the cut-off lasts for many months or spreads to other countries, it could cause havoc.

Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian energy, hopes to stop importing Russian oil within days, but weaning itself off Russian gas is a far bigger challenge.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said a Russian energy embargo or blockade would tip Germany, Europe's largest economy, into recession.

A Russian economy ministry document indicated that Russia's economy could shrink by as much as 12.4% this year.

'CRUEL' KARMA

Since the Russian invasion force was driven back at the outskirts of Kyiv last month, Moscow has refocused its operation on eastern Ukraine, starting a new offensive to fully capture two provinces known as the Donbas.

Blasts were heard early on Wednesday in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire.

Kyiv has not confirmed responsibility for these and other earlier incidents, but has described them as payback. "Karma is a cruel thing," presidential advisor Mikhaylo Podolyak wrote on social media.

An aide to the mayor of the ruined port city of Mariupol said Russian forces had renewed their attacks on the Azovstal steel plant, where fighters and some civilians remain holed up.

Concern has increased over the prospect of the conflict widening to neighbouring Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists have blamed Ukraine for reported attacks this week in their region, occupied since the 1990s by Russian troops.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A pressure gauge is pictured at a Gaz-System gas compressor station in Rembelszczyzna outside Warsaw October 13, 2010.  REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Authorities in Transdniestria said there had been firing across the border from Ukraine on Wednesday.

Ukraine has accused Russia of trying to mastermind 'false flag' attacks in the region, and Moldova's pro-Western government accuses the separatists of trying to stir conflict.

Latest comments

Why peaceful people of Iraq were destroyed?
russia is finished as a global player, and good riddance to that. soon there will be oil sanctions on top of russia cutting off its own gas deliveries, on top of the coal embargo and all the other sanctions. then it's the massive cost and the monumental failure of the invasion... russia can at best hope to become a client state to china, something akin to north korea
time to sanction Germany and their bloodmobey
the bye, bye Russian economy......
ruble/USD stronger than eur/USD😂
Russia welcome back to the soviet era economic dark age .....you brought this on yourself with your treachery, lies and murderious invasion of Ukraine.
Great for Poland and Bulgaria not to be dependent and a energy slave of putin
I wonder why these countries have been targeted..
Gerard Rotonda "Natural gas surges to highest level since 2008 as Russia’s war upends energy markets" Gerard Rotonda
Putin made sure to make russia an enemy of the people for the remainder of time. Just like in video games and movies, russia turned out to be evil and treacherous
about time russia put sanctions on other countries!
gtf outahere russian puppet
Yep. Maybe Russia put sanctions on China?
We have gas dont need Russia. Goodbye mu rderer Putin
Gerard Rotonda, "Europe's days as Russia's best customer for energy appear to be numbered. Moscow will need to find new markets if it is to remain an oil and gas superpower, but its options are limited".  Gerard Rotonda Managing Director Board of Directors Digihost Technology Inc. (DGHI) CFO Deutsche Bank CEO GoGoMeds
well we know sooner or later Europe will stop buying oil and gas from Russia, so whether it's decided by Russia now or decided by Europe at the end of the year it was gonna happen anyway.......in the long term we all know Putin is going to be China's bi*t*ch since it's the only country that is willing/able to support Russia's economy......
Good Russia deserves some attacks on their territory.
neo Nazis wining. No worries.
It is summer. Eu should stop importing Russian gas all together. Stop giving money to the criminal Putin regime. Please. We rather kook on wooden stoves the support this murderous m ********
talk for yourself
so glad Russia is starting to get bombed, only way to stop this is for the Russians to feel the war and destruction. Putin is now just a fraction of the leader he was just 2 months ago, sad decline, many dead, not one city captured, nice going puta!
europe will face high inflation due to mess supply chain.
Stupid Russians. They will pay in the end.
Yeah. Even if the war ended today, we know no business can ever be done with Russians in the future.
What’s the gaing, people suffering, losing loved ones. 🥺
this was all very avoidable
How?
How?
Russian’s gas as a weapon. Only German was naive to think oposite. Nord Stream 1 & 2 gas pipline was big, big German’s mistake.
I didn't think it was a big deal at the time but I also didn't think Russia was interested in what it is doing now. I'm not a foreign policy expert but Germany should have known better especially after 2014.
good....
fell the pain Russian steven....
And Germany aiming for an embargo on Russian oil. Biden still funding Putin's war through massive Russian uranium purchases. Criminal.
Ya ok keep crying about trump losing
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