Russia turns off the gas tap to Poland and Bulgaria

Warsaw has previously announced plans to wean itself off Russian gas by the end of the year. Sofia, for its part, says there is no need to limit gas consumption "for the time being"
Estación de compresión de gas en el gasoducto Yamal-Europa cerca de Nesvizh, a unos 130 km (81 millas) al suroeste de Minsk REUTERS/VASILY FEDOSENKO

REUTERS/VASILY FEDOSENKO  -   Gas compression station on the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline near Nesvizh, about 130 km (81 miles) south-west of Minsk

Russia's state-owned Gazprom has announced the suspension of gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria following the refusal of both countries to pay for supplies in roubles, as demanded by Moscow last month. According to the energy company, the flow of gas will be suspended until payments are made in roubles.

Warsaw, which has been receiving Russian gas through the Yamal-Europe pipeline since 1996, has called the suspension of gas "a breach of contract". Poland's Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo (PGNiG) has warned that it reserves the right to lodge claims in connection with the gas suspension and "will make use of all contractual rights conferred on the company and rights under the law", Polish broadcaster TVN24 reports. However, despite Gazprom's decision, PGNiG has assured that its customers "receive gas in accordance with their demand"

Mateusz Morawieck, primer ministro de Polonia REUTERS/WOLFGANG RATTAY
REUTERS/WOLFGANG RATTAY - Mateusz Morawieck, Prime Minister of Poland

The state-owned energy company explained that there are options to buy gas from the European Union "thanks to connections with Germany and the Czech Republic". PGNiG also pointed to the international liquefied natural gas market, highlighting the Świnoujście terminal, "whose regasification capacity has increased this year".

According to Forum Energii, some of the gas imports to Poland to replace Russian gas come from Germany (21%), Qatar (13%), with whom Warsaw has strengthened its energy ties in recent years, the United States (6%) and Norway (2%). Norwegian gas supplies will increase significantly once the Baltic Pipe pipeline, which will connect Poland to Norwegian gas fields, is completed. 

Funcionarios de Polonia y Bulgaria afirman que Rusia suspende el suministro de gas natural a sus países a partir del miércoles. Los gobiernos de los dos países europeos dijeron el martes 26 de abril de 2022 que el gigante energético ruso Gazprom les informó de que interrumpía el suministro de gas AP/SEGEI GRITS
AP/SEGEI GRITS - Officials in Poland and Bulgaria say Russia is suspending natural gas supplies to their countries from Wednesday. The governments of the two European countries said on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, that Russian energy giant Gazprom informed them that it was interrupting gas supplies to their countries from Wednesday.

The Polish government has long been working to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. With the invasion of Ukraine, Warsaw has intensified its efforts to achieve this goal. In this regard, the Polish authorities were already planning to stop importing Russian gas at the end of this year, when the contract with Gazprom expires.

Poland has previously expressed its refusal to pay for Russian gas in roubles, despite Moscow's threats to cut off gas supplies. "All possibilities and risks are under consideration. We are prepared for it," said Piotr Naimski, the government's Plenipotentiary State Secretary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure, a day before Gazprom's announcement.

Naimski also announced that Gaz-System, a PGNiG subsidiary, will launch a connection to the Lithuanian regasification plant in Klaipeda on 1 May. He also noted that the Baltic Pipe pipeline will be operational in October. 

La ministra francesa de Transición Ecológica, Barbara Pompili, interactúa con la ministra polaca de Clima y Medio Ambiente, Anna Moskwa, durante una reunión de emergencia para discutir la situación energética en Europa en medio de la invasión rusa de Ucrania, en Bruselas, Bélgica, el 28 de febrero de 2022 REUTERS/YVES HEMAN
REUTERS/YVES HEMAN - French Minister of Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili interacts with Polish Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa during an emergency meeting to discuss the energy situation in Europe amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2022.

Warsaw is confident about the suspension of Russian gas. "There will be no shortage of gas in Polish households," Anna Moskwa, Poland's Minister of Climate and Environment, wrote on her Twitter account. Moskwa also clarified that the country has "the necessary gas reserves and sources of supply". According to the minister, the stock of gas in storage is around 80 % and, for the time being, "there is no need to use the stocks".

Bulgaria, on the other hand, is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas. Sofia, like Warsaw, accuses Gazprom of violating the current contract. According to the Bulgargaz company, it has "fully complied with the obligations and made all payments required under its current contract in a timely, strict manner and in accordance with its terms". Despite the seriousness of the Russian decision, Bulgaria's Ministry of Energy has stated that there is no need to limit gas consumption "for the time being". The government will also begin to consider new alternatives for gas supplies. 

Kiril Petkov, primer ministro de Bulgaria AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN
AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN - Kiril Petkov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Sofia was an important ally of Moscow, but with Russia's invasion of Ukraine the situation has changed dramatically. Bulgaria has supported economic sanctions against Russia and has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine. In this regard, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has forged closer ties with Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky.

Gazprom could take the same action against Slovakia, as Prime Minister Eduard Heger has stressed that the national gas industry is sure to pay for gas in euros, according to the TASR news agency. The Slovakian leader has declared that the country is "ready to resist possible restrictions on Russian gas supplies"

Tanques de almacenamiento de combustible de Lukoil en la terminal del puerto de Rosenets, cerca de la ciudad de Burgas, en la costa del mar Negro PHOTO/AFP
PHOTO/AFP - Lukoil fuel storage tanks at the Rosenets port terminal near the city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast.

Both Ukraine and the European Union have responded to Gazprom's decision, calling it "blackmail". For Kiev, the move shows that Russia is using energy as a weapon, something it has been warning about for years. The Ukrainian presidency is therefore calling for an EU embargo on Russian energy.  Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, agrees with the Ukrainian authorities, describing the measure as "yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail", which, according to von der Leyen, is "unjustified and unacceptable".