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Russia to cut gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria amid tensions over Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The logo of Gazprom is pictured at the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia's energy giant Gazprom is reportedly going to cut off natural gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria, after they refused to pay for their supplies in rubles.

Polish state gas company PGNiG said in a statement on Tuesday that it had been informed all gas deliveries along the Yamal-Europe pipeline would be halted from Wednesday morning.

"On April 26, Gazprom informed PGNiG of its intention to entirely suspend deliveries under the Yamal contract at the beginning of the contract day on April 27," the statement read.

The Yamal–Europe pipeline is a natural gas distribution system running across four countries including Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.

Poland's gas supply contract with Gazprom is for 10.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year, and covers about 50% of national consumption.

PGNiG said it was prepared to obtain gas from various directions, adding that its underground gas storage was almost 80% full.

Poland's Climate Minister Anna Moskwa also affirmed that there would be no shortage of gas in Poland despite the Russian halt of exports.

"Poland has the necessary gas reserves and sources of supply that protect our security - we have been effectively independent of Russia for years," she said in a post on her Twitter account.

"There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes," the minister said.

Earlier in the day, the Bulgarian Energy Ministry said in a statement that Gazprom had also told Bulgaria's state-owned gas company Bulgargaz that it would shut off gas supplies starting Wednesday.

The ministry said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom, adding that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement.

"At present, no restrictive measures have been imposed on gas consumption in Bulgaria," the ministry added.

Bulgaria has held initial talks to import liquefied natural gas through neighboring Turkey and Greece.

Gazprom did not confirm that the supply of Russian gas to Poland had already been stopped, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing the company's spokesperson Sergey Kupriyanov. Kupriyanov said Poland was obliged to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, a demand Warsaw has rejected. He did not comment on Bulgaria's claims.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree for a new procedure for the payment of gas by "unfriendly countries." He said Russia would halt its gas contracts with European buyers if they did not pay in rubles, adding that the currency switch was meant to strengthen his country's sovereignty.

The ultimatum came amid heightened tensions with the West over Russia's military offensive in Ukraine.

About one third of Europe's gas is supplied by Russia.

Ukraine accused Russia of blackmailing Europe in an attempt to break its allies, as the military offensive entered into a third month.

Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said Russia was "beginning the gas blackmail of Europe," adding that it is "trying to shatter the unity of our allies."

Putin announced the military offensive against Ukraine on February 24. The conflict has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow. Russia says it will halt the operation instantly if Kiev meets Moscow's list of demands, including never applying to join NATO.

Poland has been a strong supporter of neighboring Ukraine during the Russian offensive. It is a transit point for weapons the United States and other Western nations have provided Ukraine. Poland is also among the European countries seeking the toughest sanctions against Russia for attacking its neighbor.

Bulgaria, once one of Moscow's closest allies, has cut many of its old ties with Russia since the military offensive in Ukraine began. It has supported sanctions against Russia but has been hesitant to provide military aid to Ukraine.

Russia warns Britain for 'provoking' Ukraine

Meanwhile, Moscow has warned Britain of an immediate "proportional response" if London continues to "provoke" Ukraine to strike targets in Russia.

The warning came after UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said it was entirely legitimate for Ukraine to hunt targets in the depths of Russia to disrupt logistics and supply lines.

"We would like to underline that London's direct provocation of the Kiev regime into such actions, if such actions are carried out, will immediately lead to our proportional response," Russia's Defense Ministry said.

"As we have warned, the Russian Armed Forces are in round-the-clock readiness to launch retaliatory strikes with high-precision long-range weapons at decision-making centers in Kiev."

The ministry also said that if such Russian strikes were made, it would not necessarily be a problem if the representatives of a certain Western country were located at Ukraine's decision making centers.

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