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Ukraine to halt Russian gas flow to Europe, blaming Moscow

Russia's energy giant Gazprom

Ukraine has decided to suspend the flow of Russian gas through a key transit point to Europe, blaming Moscow for the move, in a dispute that could disrupt supplies from the former Soviet state for the first time since the war started late February.

The Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine (GTSOU) said in a statement on Tuesday that it would stop transporting Russian gas through the eastern Sokhranivka entry point, that delivers almost one-third of the fuel that Russia exports to Europe across Ukraine, from May 11.

GTSOU claimed it could not operate at the Novopskov gas compressor station in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region due to "the interference" of Russian forces in technical processes.

It also proposed to shift all volumes to the Sudzha interconnection point located in territory controlled by Ukraine, as it declared "force majeure."

However, Russia's energy giant Gazprom, which supplies the gas sent through the pipelines, said it was "technologically impossible" to switch gas transfers to the Sudzha interconnection point.

The company said it had been notified of the force majeure but had seen no proof of that or of obstacles to continuing the gas flow as before.

Gazprom also said it was meeting all its obligations to European consumers in full.

Ukraine has remained a major transit route for Russian gas to Europe even after Moscow's offensive. The latest decision has raised fears of a cutoff of flows to Europe. Mounting Western sanctions are also seeking to ban or phase out the use of Russian energy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree for a new procedure for the payment of gas by "unfriendly countries," saying Russia would halt its gas contracts with European buyers if they did not pay in rubles. The ultimatum came amid heightened tensions with the West over Russia's military offensive in Ukraine.

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.

Ukraine claims battlefield gains

Meanwhile, Ukraine has claimed battlefield gains over Russian forces, including the recapture of four villages around the country's second-largest city of Kharkiv.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a nightly video address praised the territorial gains, saying he is grateful to Ukrainian servicemen who are gradually pushing Russian forces out of Kharkiv, which has been under bombardment since the war began.

But he also called on his people "not to spread excessive emotions."

"We should not create an atmosphere of excessive moral pressure, where victories are expected weekly and even daily," Zelenskyy said.

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