WARSAW/SOFIA/KYIV, April 27 (Reuters) – Europe should stop depending on Russia for trade after Moscow halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for not paying in roubles, Ukraine said, as the shutoff exposed the continent’s weaknesses and divisions on Wednesday.
The decision, denounced by European leaders as “blackmail”, comes as Russia’s own economy wilts under sanctions and Western countries are sending more arms to Kyiv despite warnings from the Kremlin to back off.
Gazprom (GAZP.MM), Russia’s gas export monopoly, suspended gas supplies “due to absence of payments in roubles”, as stipulated in a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin that aims to soften the impact of sanctions.
“The sooner everyone in Europe recognises that they cannot depend on Russia for trade, the sooner it will be possible to guarantee stability in European markets,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on Wednesday.
France will host a meeting of EU energy ministers on May 2 to discuss how to deal with Russia’s move.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia remained a reliable energy supplier and denied it was engaging in blackmail.
On the battlefield, Ukraine reported that Russian troops had made gains in the east.
Russia reported a number of blasts on its side of the border, and a blaze at an arms depot. Kyiv called the explosions “karma”.
Ukraine said Russian forces had used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson, the first big city it has seized. A series of powerful explosions caused by rockets hit the centre of Kherson late on Wednesday, Ria News agency reported. read more
Moscow calls it a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies call the war an unprovoked act of aggression.
With so many EU members reliant on Russian energy, the European Commission has said the EU’s gas buyers can engage with Russia’s payment scheme provided certain conditions are met.