Russia Cuts Natural Gas to Two NATO Countries in Major Escalation
Russia dramatically escalated its standoff with the West over the war in Ukraine on Wednesday (April 27), cutting natural gas off to NATO members Poland and Bulgaria and threatening to disconnect even more nations. European leaders decried the move as “blackmail.”
A day after the U.S. and other Western allies vowed to speed more and better military supplies to Ukraine, the Kremlin upped the ante, using its most essential export as leverage. The tactic could eventually force targeted nations to ration gas and deal another blow to economies suffering from rising prices.
Benchmark gas prices in Europe shot up on the news that Poland and Bulgaria were cut off, marking another dark turn in a war that has revived the geopolitical rifts of the Cold War.
In a memo, state-controlled Russian giant Gazprom said it was shutting off the countries because they refused to pay in Russian rubles, as Putin had demanded. The company said it had not received any such payment since the beginning of the month, though Bulgaria’s energy minister disputed that.
Europe Decries “Blackmail” as Russia Cuts Gas to Poland, Bulgaria
Russia’s Gazprom cut Poland and Bulgaria off from its gas on Wednesday (April 27) for refusing to pay in rubles, and threatened to do the same to others, cranking up retaliation for Western sanctions imposed for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Gas prices soared on fears that more states could be hit, notably Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, which last year bought more than half its gas from Russia.
President Vladimir Putin’s demand for payment in rubles is designed to soften the effect of Western sanctions that include freezing hundreds of billions of dollars of Russian assets. Russia’s top lawmaker said other “unfriendly” countries might also be cut off.