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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres shake hands during their meeting in Moscow Maxim Shipenkov

Russian gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria suspended as UN chief visits Moscow

Much of eastern Europe heavily depends on gas from Russia.

LAST UPDATE | 26 Apr 2022

SHIPMENTS OF RUSSIAN gas to Poland and Bulgaria are being suspended from tomorrow.

Russia’s Gazprom will halt gas shipments to Poland via the Yamal pipeline beginning tomorrow, according to Poland’s PGNiG gas firm.

“On April 26, 2022, Gazprom informed PGNiG of its intention to completely suspend deliveries under the Yamal contract… on April 27,” PGNiG said, adding that Poland was prepared to obtain necessary supplies from other sources.

The gas giant also told Bulgaria, which is highly dependent on Russian gas,  that it will halt its shipments of Russian gas from tomorrow, the Bulgarian economy ministry confirmed.

“Bulgargaz received a notification today, April 26, that natural gas supplies from Gazprom Export will be suspended starting April 27,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Bulgarian side has fully met its obligations and has made all payments required under its current contract in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms,” it said. 

Earlier today, the head of the United Nations proposed a joint effort between Russia, the Ukraine and UN to open more humanitarian corridors during talks in Moscow.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in person today in Moscow for the first time since the invasion began. 

At a press conference after the talks, Guterres said that humanitarian corridors are “urgently” needed in Ukraine.

“To that end, I have proposed the establishment of a humanitarian contact group bringing together the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United Nations to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors,” he said.

He 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. And they require independent investigation for effective accountability,” Guterres said.

Putin told Guterres he has “hope” in Ukraine talks, while Lavrov said Moscow was ready to cooperate with the United Nations to help civilians in Ukraine.

The Russian President said that “despite the fact that the military operation is ongoing, we still hope that we will be able to reach agreements on the diplomatic track”.

“We are negotiating, we do not reject [talks],” Putin said.

Lavrov said: “Our goals are primarily to protect the civilian population and here we are ready to cooperate with our colleagues from the UN to alleviate the plight of the civilian population.”

He said Russia was in favour of resolving the conflict in Ukraine with peace talks, but said it was “depressing” the way the Kyiv delegation and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy behaved.

However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today that Putin has shown no seriousness about diplomacy to end the war.

“We’ve seen no sign to date that President Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

While the United States would support Ukrainian efforts to end the war diplomatically, Blinken said: “Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and, indeed, to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.”

Emergency response

Meanwhile, in Germany, US officials hosted emergency talks with allies today on supplying Kyiv with more weapons to fend off the assault.

40 countries met at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its eighth week, has triggered widespread outrage among nations who have provided weapons and other assistance to Ukraine’s embattled President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

However, Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their direct involvement, wary of drawing Moscow’s ire and sparking military confrontations beyond Ukraine’s borders.

“We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said following his visit to Kyiv on Sunday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The two officials promised $700 million in new aid to Ukraine, after months of pleas by Zelenskyy for heavier firepower.

Germany said it would begin supplying anti-aircraft tanks, a clear shift after refusing for weeks to provide more advanced equipment and a sign that Berlin was abandoning its cautious approach towards Moscow.

Military specialists said allies wanted to equip Ukrainian forces to halt the long-range bombings by Russia in the eastern Donbas region, which aim to push back Ukraine’s troops so that Russian tanks and troops can move in.

Attack drones, anti-aircraft missiles and sophisticated intelligence from agencies could prove vital for slowing the advance of Russia’s military might, they said. 

Despite the diplomatic scrambling, civilians continued to bear the brunt of much of the fighting raging in the south and east.

Among Kyiv’s troops, “in terms of morale, the situation is complicated. It’s far from rosy,” Iryna Rybakova, press officer of the 93rd brigade, told AFP near the frontline in Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine.

In the south, two Russian missiles struck earlier today in the industrial city of Zaporizhia, which has been welcoming many of the civilians fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol, regional authorities said.

Russian forces are expected to soon advance on the city, giving them the potential to seize Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.

“The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium, as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east,” the UK Ministry of Defence said in its daily analysis.

And in Mariupol, where some 100,000 residents remain trapped, Russian forces continued to pound the Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian forces have been holding out.

Moscow said Kyiv was preventing civilians trapped with Ukrainian soldiers at Azovstal from leaving despite a ceasefire announcement, but Ukraine said Russia had refused to guarantee the security of any evacuation corridor.

“The bombings continue constantly, by heavy artillery and aviation,” Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said Tuesday on Facebook.

Elsewhere, Russia’s capture of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant put the world on the edge of “disaster”, Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said today.

Speaking during a press conference with UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi, Zelenskyy said Russia’s attack on the plant during the initial phase of the invasion pushed the world towards the “brink of disaster”.

“The world was once again on the brink of disaster, because for the Russian military, the Chernobyl zone and the plant was like a normal battleground, territory where they didn’t even try to care about nuclear safety,” Zelenskyy said. 

Death toll mounts

In Kharkiv — which has faced a daily barrage of Russian rocket attacks since the war began over three months ago — children spoke to AFP about the bombings, their daily life and hopes for peace.

“I miss my kickboxing training and dance classes,” said Alina, 9, who has been forced to sleep in an underground car park.

“Victory would make me very happy. The war won’t end straight away, but it will in a few weeks, I made a wish.”

Russia for its part has begun accusing Ukrainian forces of striking targets on Russian soil, including two villages in Belgorod and another in the region of Bryansk.

Meanwhile, the IMF warned that Asian nations, like the rest of the world, are being battered by the war, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow driving up food and fuel prices worldwide.

“This is a challenging time for policymakers as they try to address pressures on growth and tackle rising inflation,” IMF official Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf wrote in a blog.

© AFP 2022

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