Gazprom: What’s behind Russia’s natural gas cut off and how will it affect the UK?

·3-min read
An employee walks past a part of Gazprom's Power Of Siberia gas pipeline at the Atamanskaya compressor station outside the far eastern town of Svobodny (REUTERS)
An employee walks past a part of Gazprom's Power Of Siberia gas pipeline at the Atamanskaya compressor station outside the far eastern town of Svobodny (REUTERS)

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has told Poland and Bulgaria it will halt gas supplies beginning Wednesday.

It escalates Moscow’s row with Western countries who oppose its invasion of Ukraine.

Why did Russia cut off supply?

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the world’s largest natural gas producer would require “unfriendly” countries to pay for fuel in roubles.

They would have to open accounts at Gazprombank and make payments in euros or dollars to be converted into roubles.

Russian energy company Gazprom on Wednesday halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland as they had failed to pay in roubles.

In a statement, Gazprom said it had “completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgargaz (Bulgaria) and PGNiG (Poland)” and further warned that transit via Poland and Bulgaria would be cut if gas was taken illegally.

The decision followed Poland’s announcement it was imposing sanctions on 50 entities and individuals, including Gazprom, Russia’s biggest gas company.

How much gas does Russia supply to Europe?

Gazprom supplies Europe with 40 per cent of its gas needs.

The EU paying 200 million to 800 million euros ($880 million) per day so far this year.

Poland’s Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said there was no need to draw gas from reserves and that gas to Polish customers won’t be cut.

Flows from other directions will replace Gazprom’s supplies, Poland’s Minister in Charge of Energy Security Piotr Naimski said, adding that the Yamal contract was meant to end in December anyways.

Will other countries be cut off by Russia?

Poland and Bulgaria would be the first countries to have their gas cut off by Russia since Moscow started what it calls a military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

Several countries have said they will not comply with Moscow’s demands.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Russia’s action was “unjustified and unacceptable” and accused Moscow of using its gas as an “instrument of blackmail”.

Only a few Russian gas buyers, such as Hungary and Uniper, Germany’s main importer of Russian gas, have said it would be possible to pay for future supplies under the scheme announced by Moscow without breaching EU sanctions.

How will it affect the UK and how did the Government react?

There are no gas pipelines directly linking the UK with Russia and imports from Russia made up less than of 4 per cent total UK gas supply in 2021, the British Government said.

Russia’s decision to cut off gas supply to Poland will only add to its status as an economic and political pariah, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.

“We have been warning about this for a while but we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Polish friends and allies,” Raab told Sky News.

“It (halting gas supply) will have a … very damaging effect on Russia as well because it is becoming further and further, more and more, not just a political pariah, but an economic pariah.”

Labour shadow defence minister Luke Pollard said reports “Russia has cut the gas off to Poland” are “a serious and dangerous escalation”.

He told the Commons: “There are reports that have broken during this debate that Russia has cut the gas off to Poland.

“This is a serious and dangerous escalation that illustrates the desperation of the Kremlin and the urgent need for Europe to move away from its reliance on Russian oil and gas.

“Britain stands with Poland and it is important that we state that Putin must not be able to win, whatever desperate tactic he throws at this situation.”

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