STORY: Russia’s decision to halt Gazprom's gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their failure to pay in roubles has been denounced as “blackmail” by European Union leaders.
Speaking on Wednesday (April 27), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the move was no surprise.
"Gazprom's announcement that it is unilaterally stopping gas deliveries to certain EU member states is another provocation from the Kremlin. But it comes as no surprise that the Kremlin uses fossil fuels to try to blackmail us. This is something the European Commission has been preparing for in close coordination and solidarity with member states and international partners."
The Kremlin has dismissed accusations that it has used natural gas as a tool of blackmail.
Moscow says it cut off supplies to enforce its demand for rouble gas payments, needed to shield its economy from international sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Overall, state-controlled gas pipeline Gazprom supplies Europe with about 40% of its gas needs.
Warsaw, which has been at the forefront of efforts to keep Ukraine's military supplied with equipment to fight Russian forces, said the halt was a breach of contract.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda vowed to take legal measures.
"Obviously, Polish companies that have contracts with Russia regarding gas imports, which are de-facto breached by Russia, and of which all fundamental principles are totally being violated ... We will take appropriate legal steps, I deeply believe in this, in enforcing appropriate compensations from the Russian side, from Gazprom, for violations of the provisions of the contract."
And in Bulgaria, Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov echoed the Polish president.
“It is clear that natural gas is currently being used more as a political and economic weapon, in the form of a war, rather than a legal trade. In terms of legal and trade relations, the Bulgarian side has absolutely no violations."
Bulgaria, which relies on Russia for about 90% of its gas imports, said it would not hold talks to renew its Gazprom deal.
There are fears more states could be hit, in particular Germany, which relied on Russia for more than 50% of its gas in 2021.
Gazprom has also warned that if fuel transiting via Polish and Bulgarian pipelines to neighboring countries was siphoned off illegally, it would be cut.
But on the streets of Warsaw, Poles seemed unfazed.
Pensioner Andrzej shrugged at the move by Moscow, saying his country has reserves.
"Everyone knows, this is war. And in war times, costs may rise. So in that regard, I’m at war too, carrying these costs myself."