In continued fallout from the Ukraine war, Russian energy giant Gazprom announced on Wednesday that it had suspended gas deliveries to Bulgaria and Poland due to their refusal to pay in rubles.
'Gazprom Export has notified (Bulgarian gas company) Bulgargaz and (Polish gas company) PGNiG of the suspension of gas supplies starting April 27 and until payment is made in accordance with the procedure established by the decree (on transferring gas payments in rubles),' the company said in a statement.
The statement added that neither Bulgaria nor Poland had paid for supplied volumes as of Tuesday, April 26.
As the two counties are transit states, Gazprom also warned that if any gas bound for third counties was diverted for Bulgaria or Poland, these supplies would be cut by an equivalent volume.
On March 31, Russian President Vladimir Putin said 'unfriendly countries' must now pay for gas supplies in rubles after they froze Russian Central Bank currency assets over the Ukraine war, which began on Feb. 24.
Putin said that by freezing Russia's assets in dollars and euros, the West had effectively seized payments for fuel deliveries and taken them for free and that the new payments could be frozen as well, so Russia cannot take the risk of continuing trade in euros and dollars.
Under the order, Western countries have to open accounts in rubles in Russian banks to pay for gas.
Polish state gas company PGNiG said on Tuesday that Gazprom informed it of its intention to completely suspend deliveries at the beginning of the contract day on Wednesday.
Responding to the news on Twitter, Anna Moskwa, Poland’s climate and environment minister, said her country is prepared for this course of events.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said in a tweet that “Gazprom's move to completely shut off gas supplies to Poland is yet another sign of Russia's politicization of existing agreements & will only accelerate European efforts to move away from Russian energy supplies. @IEA stands firmly with Poland.”
At least 2,729 civilians have been killed and 3,111 others injured in Ukraine since the war started over two months ago, according to UN estimates. The true toll is feared to be much higher.
By Elena Teslova in Moscow