Russia reports blasts on its soil, as it cuts off gas to Poland, Bulgaria

Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, said it had “completely suspended gas supplies” to the Polish and Bulgarian gas companies “due to absence of payments in roubles”, as stipulated in a decree from President Vladimir Putin that aims to soften the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said the move violated “basic legal principles”. Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said gas was being used as a “political and economic weapon”.

Ukrainian serviceman install a machine gun on the tank during the repair works after fighting against Russian forces in Donetsk region.

Ukrainian serviceman install a machine gun on the tank during the repair works after fighting against Russian forces in Donetsk region.Credit:AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

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.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the cut-off “yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail”.

But the commission has also 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.

However, ambassadors from the EU member states asked the commission for clearer guidance on whether sending euros to Gazprombank would amount to a breach of sanctions.

Poland and Bulgaria are both former Soviet-era satellites of Moscow that have since joined the EU and NATO. Poland 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, an anti-graft campaigner who took office last year, has denounced the invasion of Ukraine. He was due in Kyiv on Wednesday to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Bulgaria and Poland are the only two European countries with Gazprom contracts due to expire at the end of this year, which meant their search for alternative supplies was well under way.

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 from several directions to fully capture two provinces known as the Donbas.

“Russia has already gathered strength for a large-scale offensive in eastern Ukraine … in the coming days we will need all our resilience and extraordinary unity,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on his Facebook page.

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.

No agreement was reached on evacuating civilians from Mariupol on Wednesday.

Concern has increased in recent days 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.

Authorities in Transnistria 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.

The invasion of Ukraine has left thousands dead or injured, reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad. Moscow calls it a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine; Kyiv and its allies call the war an unprovoked act of aggression.


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