ROME—European countries reliant on Russian gas, be warned: Vladimir Putin has just started using energy as his latest weapon of war.
With the announcement that Russian state company Gazprom abruptly shut off the supply of gas to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, Putin has further drawn Europe into his ugly war in Ukraine.
Since the war began in late February, Europe has struggled with how to balance its reliance on Russian gas with the ethical concerns of the ruthless invasion. Last month when Putin threatened that all current contracts would only be honored if paid in rubles, many European nations— including Italy and Germany, who import the most Russian gas—started working around how to make sure the supply was not cut off.
Poland and Bulgaria were cut off because they refused to pay in the Russian currency, according to Gazprom. A spokesperson for Italy’s state energy company SNAM told The Daily Beast that supplies to Italy, which gets 45 percent of its gas from Russia, were still flowing despite Italy also refusing to pay in rubles.
It is unclear if Italy and Germany found a way to work around the payment requirement or if Russia can’t afford to lose its two largest European clients.
Russia Wednesday warning that if Poland and Bulgaria “siphoned” off gas from other countries, it would decrease overall deliveries to Europe by the amount it had been supplying to the two banned nations.
European Union President Ursula von der Leyen warned Moscow on Wednesday that the use of energy supplies to threaten Europe will not be tolerated. “The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stooping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,” she said in a statement. “This is unjustified and unacceptable.”
European countries have vowed to reduce dependence on Russian energy, but no country has said it can completely wean itself before 2023.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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