Russia halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday for rejecting its demand for payment in roubles, taking direct aim at European economies in its toughest retaliation so far against international sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
The Russian energy giant Gazprom said it had cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, in Moscow’s latest use of gas as a weapon in a conflict that has now dragged into its third month and claimed thousands of lives.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the move was the result of “unprecedented unfriendly steps in the economic sphere and the financial sector, which were taken against us by unfriendly countries.”
Gazprom said Poland and Bulgaria had been told in a “timely manner” that payment for gas supplied from April 1 must be made it roubles.
It also warned the two countries that if they siphon gas intended for other European customers, the deliveries to Europe will be reduced to that amount.
Poland receives its Russian gas through the Yamal-Europe pipeline from Russia’s huge gasfields in the Arctic far north, which continues west to supply Germany and other European countries, while Bulgaria is supplied through pipes over Turkey.
Despite the collapse in ties between Russia and the West, Moscow and Washington carried out a prisoner swap. The United States freed Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, jailed on drug trafficking charges. Russia released former U.S. marine Trevor Reed, accused of fighting with police.