Russia's Gazprom halts gas exports to Finland

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Russia's Gazprom halts gas exports to Finland
Russia's Gazprom halts gas exports to Finland

Russia's energy giant Gazprom has halted exports to Finland just days after the Scandinavian country officially applied to join Nato.

The measure comes after Helsinki refused to follow demands by Russian president Vladimir Putin to pay for gas in rubles.

Putin has demanded the Russian currency be used by all European countries since he initiated an invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The Finnish state-owned gas company Gasum said that “natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum’s supply contract have been cut off” by Russia on Saturday morning

The announcement follows Moscow’s decision to cut off electricity exports to Finland earlier this month

Finnish state-controlled oil company Neste had also vowed to replace imports of Russian crude oil with crude oil from elsewhere.

After decades of energy cooperation that was seen beneficial for both Helsinki — particularly in the case of inexpensive Russian crude oil — and Moscow, Finland’s energy ties with Russia are now all but gone.

Such a break was easier for Finland than it will be for other European Union nations. Natural gas accounts for just some 5% of total energy consumption in Finland, a country of 5.5 million.

Almost all of that gas comes from Russia, and is used mainly by industrial and other companies with only an estimated 4,000 households relying on gas heating.

Gasum said it would now supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the undersea Balticconnector gas pipeline running between Finland and Estonia.

Matti Vanhanen, the former Finnish prime minister and current speaker of Parliament, said the effect of Moscow’s decision to cut off gas after nearly 50 years since the first deliveries from the Soviet Union began is above all symbolic.

In an interview Saturday with the Finnish public broadcaster YLE, Vanhanen said the decision marks an end of “a hugely important period between Finland, the Soviet Union and Russia, not only in energy terms but symbolically.”

“That pipeline is unlikely to ever open again,” Vanhanen told YLE, referring to the two parallel Russia-Finland natural gas pipelines that were launched in 1974.

The first connections from Finland’s power grid to the Soviet transmission system were also constructed in the 1970s, allowing electricity imports to Finland in case additional capacity was needed.

Vanhanen did not see Moscow’s gas stoppage as a retaliatory step from Russia to Finland’s bid to join Nato but rather a countermove to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia did the same thing with Finland it has done earlier with some other countries to maintain its own credibility,” Vanhanen said, referring to the Kremlin’s demands to buy its gas in rubles.

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