Officials in Poland and Bulgaria said on Tuesday that Russia is suspending their countries’ natural gas deliveries after they refused to pay for their supplies in Russian rubles, The Associated Press reported.
The governments of the two European Union and NATO members said Russian energy giant Gazprom informed them it was halting the gas supplies starting Wednesday.
The suspensions would be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that “unfriendly” foreign buyers would have to pay the state-owned Gazprom in rubles instead of other currencies.
Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Russia was “beginning the gas blackmail of Europe.”
“Russia is trying to shatter the unity of our allies. Russia is also proving that energy resources are a weapon. That is why the EU needs to be united and impose an embargo on energy resources, depriving the Russians of their energy weapons,” he said.
Poland’s state gas company, PGNiG, said it was informed by Gazprom that its deliveries through the Yamal-Europe pipeline would stop Wednesday at 8:00 a.m.
Later, the Bulgarian Energy Ministry said it was notified that Bulgaria’s supplies of Russian gas via the TurkStream pipeline would cease on Wednesday as well.
Poland’s gas company said it was considering legal action over the Russian payment demand, according to AP, while Bulgaria said the new gas payment system created considerable risks for the country and that it was working with state gas companies to find alternative sources to replace the supplies it gets from Russia.
The news comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. Earlier on Tuesday, Germany reversed course and announced it will send a shipment of tanks to Ukraine.
The sale of tanks, which was formally announced by German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht at a NATO summit, will see Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and an assortment of anti-tank weapons transferred to the Ukrainian military, AFP reported.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that peace talks with Ukraine would continue, while warning there was a "real" danger of a World War III.
The Russian Minister criticized Kyiv's approach to the talks, adding, "Good will has its limits. But if it isn't reciprocal, that doesn't help the negotiation process."
"But we are continuing to engage in negotiations with the team delegated by (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy, and these contacts will go on," added Lavrov.