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Russia cuts gas to Poland in what Ukraine condemns as ‘gas blackmail’

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Russia halted gas supplies to Poland under the Yamal contract on Wednesday, data from the European Union network of gas transmission operators showed, in a deepening of the rift between the West and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Bulgaria, like Poland a NATO and EU member, said earlier that Russia would also halt supplies of gas to it. There was no word early on Wednesday if Bulgaria’s supplies were also cut.

Ukraine accused Russia of blackmailing Europe over energy in an attempt to break its allies, as fighting heads into a third month without Russia capturing a major city.

Poland is among the European countries seeking the toughest sanctions against Russia for invading its neighbour. Poland’s gas supply contract with energy giant Gazprom is for 10.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year, and covers about 50% of national consumption.

Poland’s state-owned PGNiG had said supplies from Gazprom via Ukraine and Belarus would be cut at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Wednesday, but Poland said it did not need to draw on reserves and its gas storage was 76% full.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas imports in roubles, a demand only a few buyers have implemented.

“The ultimate goal of Russia’s leadership is not just to seize the territory of Ukraine, but to dismember the entire centre and east of Europe and deal a global blow to democracy,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Tuesday.

Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas imports, said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom and that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement. It has held initial talks to import liquefied natural gas through neighbouring Turkey and Greece.

Gazprom said it had not yet suspended supplies to Poland but that Warsaw had to pay for gas in line with its new „order of payments.” It declined to comment regarding Bulgaria.

More than 40 countries met in Germany on Tuesday to discuss Ukraine’s defence.

Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters while flying to Tuesday’s meeting that the next few weeks in Ukraine would be „very, very critical”.

Germany announced on Tuesday its first delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, including Gepard tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns.