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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -2°C
Leo Correa Elizabeth, 12, holds her cat as she takes shelter with her family inside the basement of a residential building during a Russian attack in Lyman in Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine.
energy squeeze

Poland and Bulgaria to receive gas from EU neighbours following Russian supply halt

It comes as Ukraine announced that Russian forces had pushed deeper into the east of the country, and a new threat to Moldova.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 27th 2022, 6:03 PM

POLAND AND BULGARIA are now receiving gas from their EU neighbours after Russia cut off the flow of gas to the two member states yesterday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed today that the two states would be provided with gas by other EU members to ensure that the decision by Russia to cut gas supplies would not impact on European customers.

“We will ensure that Gazprom’s decision has the least possible impact on European consumers,” von der Leyen said.

“Today, the Kremlin failed once again in its attempt to sow division among member states. The era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end.”

Von der Leyen warned EU importers that, unless a supply contract was denominated in roubles, giving in to the Kremlin’s demand and paying in roubles would contravene sanctions.

“This would be a breach of the sanctions, so a high risk for the companies,” she said.

She said that “about 97 percent” of all EU contracts explicitly stipulate payments in euros or dollars.

The top EU official said there were plans to convene a meeting of energy ministers from across the bloc “as soon as possible” to discuss the situation.

Yesterday, Gazprom announced that the supply of gas to Poland and Bulgaria was to be cut after both countries refused to pay for the fossil fuel in roubles following last month’s announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The energy giant said in a statement it notified Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz and Poland’s PGNiG about the “suspension of gas supplies from April 27 until payment is made” in roubles, after President Vladimir Putin last month said Russia will only accept payment for deliveries in its national currency.

Polish state-controlled gas utility company PGNiG has confirmed that Gazprom has “completely suspended” the supply of gas to Poland via the Yamal pipeline.

“Despite the fulfilment of all obligations under the Yamal contract by PGNiG, on April 27 this year, Gazprom has stopped delivering natural gas,” the Polish group said in a statement.

“The limitation of natural gas supplies is a breach of the Yamal contract. PGNiG reserves the right to pursue claims in connection with the suspension of deliveries and will use all contractual rights vested in the company and rights under the law.”

‘Unfriendly actions’

The Kremlin has said that the move to cease supplying gas to both Poland and Bulgaria was due to “unfriendly” actions against Russia by the two countries.

“The need for a new payment method was a result of unprecedented unfriendly steps in the economic sphere and the financial sector, which were taken against us by unfriendly countries,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“This need was dictated by the fact that, as you know, they blocked from us — or, to put it plainly, stole — a fairly significant amount of our reserves,” Peskov said, adding that this led to a “transition to a new payment system”.

Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov said that Russia warned European countries multiple times that they needed to pay for gas in roubles.

“The only option to continue the gas supplies is to pay for these supplies in roubles,” said Filatov, speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime.

“I don’t think that anybody would expect us to continue to supply gas for free under the circumstances.”

When asked whether or not Russia would cut off gas supplies to Germany, who have said that they would not pay for gas in roubles, Filatov said that he would not discuss “hypothetical situations”.

The Polish government has insisted it was ready to face any interruption of supply from Russia.

“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Climate Minister Anna Moskwa wrote on Twitter.

“Since the first day of the war we have declared that we are ready for full independence from Russian raw materials,” she said.

“Poland has the necessary gas reserves and sources of supply to protect our security. For years we have been successfully making ourselves independent from Russia,” she added.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said gas storage facilities were 76% full and Poland was ready to “obtain gas from all possible other directions”.

Morawiecki called the halt of gas supplies a “direct attack” on Poland by Russia and that the country would deal with “this blackmail”.

“Russia not only carried out a brutal, murderous attack on Ukraine… but Russia also attacked all of Europe’s energy security and food security,” Morawiecki said.

“It is a direct attack on Poland… We’ll deal with this blackmail, this pistol to the head in such a way that it doesn’t affect Poles.”

He added that Poland may not need to rely on Russian gas starting in the autumn due to prior preparations.

‘Coordinated’ response

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU is planning a “coordinated” response after Gazprom’s announcement turned off the taps to Poland and Bulgaria.

“Gazprom’s announcement is another attempt by Russia to blackmail us with gas. We are prepared for this scenario. We are mapping out our coordinated EU response,” she said on Twitter.

“Europeans can trust that we stand united and in solidarity with the member states impacted.”

The announcement came as Ukraine announced that Russian forces had pushed deeper into the east of the country and captured several villages, as part of Moscow’s renewed offensive to take control of Donbas.

The defence ministry said that Russian forces had pushed out Kyiv’s army from Velyka Komyshuvakha and Zavody in the Kharkiv region and had gained control over Zarichne and Novotoshkivske in the Donetsk region.

This morning, Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had destroyed a large quantity of Western-supplied weapons in southeastern Ukraine with long-range missiles.

“On the territory of the Zaporizhzhia aluminium plant, high-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles destroyed hangars with a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition supplied by the United States and European countries for Ukrainian troops,” the ministry said in a briefing.

It did not say what type of weapons were destroyed.

Yesterday, on the invitation of the United States, 40 countries held a security summit in Germany to discuss arms supplies to Ukraine with Washington pledging to move “heaven and earth” to help the Kyiv army defeat Russia.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading for heavier firepower to push back the Russian advance in the Donbas, but allies are wary of being drawn into a conflict that could spiral into an outright military confrontation between Moscow and NATO.

Explosions this week targeting the state security ministry, a radio tower and military unit in neighbouring Moldova’s region of Transnistria – occupied by Moscow’s forces for decades – followed a Kremlin commander’s claims Russian speakers in the country were being oppressed.

That triggered alarm that Moldova could be Russia’s next target in its push into Europe, with Moscow having exploited similar fears after launching its bloody invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

“Russia wants to destabilise the Transnistrian region,” Mykhaylo Podolyak, a Ukraine presidential aide, wrote on Twitter.

“If Ukraine falls, tomorrow Russian troops will be at Chisinau’s gates,” he said, referring to Moldova’s capital.

The United States echoed similar concerns — though stopped short of backing Kyiv’s contention that Russia was responsible.

When asked about whether or not Russia intended on expanding the war into Moldova, Filatov denied that a war was taking place in Ukraine and that it was a “special military operation”.

“Russia is not carrying a war (sic), we are carrying special military operation in Ukraine and there are no plans to extend that,” said Filatov, speaking to RTÉ.

‘Heaven and earth’

president-zelenskyy-visits-a-childrens-hospital-kyiv ABACA / PA Images President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presents the staff and doctors of the Okhmatdyt National Childrens Specialized Hospital with medals. ABACA / PA Images / PA Images

Zelenskyy has been lobbying for heavier firepower to push back the Russian advance now focused on the eastern region of Donbas.

Western allies are wary of being drawn into an outright war with Russia, but Washington pledged at a summit to move “heaven and earth” to enable Ukraine to emerge victorious.

With arms flowing into Ukraine, Germany announced it would send anti-aircraft tanks – a sharp U-turn dropping its much-criticised cautious stance.

Britain will also urge Kyiv’s allies to “ramp up” military production including tanks and planes to help Ukraine, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set to call for a “new approach” to confront Putin.

“We must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine,” she is set to say, according to pre-released remarks.

Truss will also urge Europe to cut off Russian energy imports “once and for all” – a move that would deprive Moscow of a key source of leverage over its dependent western neighbours.

On the brink

Fighting continues to rage across Ukraine’s east, Kyiv’s defence ministry said, with Russia shelling Kharkiv city and its troops launching an offensive on the town of Barvinkove.

In the south, two Russian missiles struck the industrial city of Zaporizhzhia, which has welcomed many civilians fleeing Mariupol, regional authorities said. Russian forces are expected to soon advance on the city, which is located near Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.

russia-ukraine-war Leo Correa Lilia stands next to a place where a bomb heavily damaged the basement of a residential building in Lyman. Leo Correa

At the site of the world’s world-ever atomic disaster, Chernobyl in northern Ukraine observed the 36th anniversary of the meltdown back under Kyiv’s control.

To the east, at the entrance to Barvinkove, six Ukrainian soldiers were ready at any moment to dive into their trench, which they dig every day with a shovel.

“Otherwise, we’re dead,” said Vasyl, 51, who serves with his 22-year-old son Denys.

Ukraine officials said there was fighting all along the frontlines in the Donetsk region, and that resistance in the Azovstal factory in the besieged port city of Mariupol was still holding out.

The UN’s refugee agency said it now expects more than eight million Ukrainians to eventually flee their country, with nearly 5.3 million already out, and that $1.85 billion would be needed to host them in neighbouring countries.

In a meeting with Putin, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for Moscow and Kyiv to work together to set up aid and evacuation corridors in war-torn Ukraine.

He also called for an independent investigation into “possible war crimes” in Ukraine.

“I am concerned about the repeated reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and possible war crimes,” Guterres said.

“And they require independent investigation for effective accountability.”

© AFP 2022

- Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally

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