Russia says it remains a reliable energy supplier—despite its decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that prompted EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to denounce Russia's "unreliability" on this front, reports the BBC. It's not the only word being thrown around on Wednesday: "Blackmail" is another being used by both Poland and Bulgaria, who refused Moscow's demand to pay in rubles instead of dollars or euros. Politico reports Von der Leyen used the same word Wednesday, swinging at Russia for using gas "as an instrument of blackmail." Moscow resisted the characterization. "This is not blackmail," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday, reports CNN.
This is the first time Russia has cut off any country's gas supply since it launched its invasion of Ukraine. Bulgaria gets 90% of its gas from state-controlled Russian giant Gazprom; 53% of Poland's gas imports were from Gazprom in the first quarter of the year. Some thoughts on the impact of the move:
- Bulgaria's energy minister says it can keep supplying residents for at least one month and that no restrictions on gas consumption would be put in place at the moment. It is looking for alternative sources, such as from Azerbaijan, reports the AP.
- Poland has been making moves for at least a decade to reduce its dependence on Russia, among them the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal that can receive imports from suppliers like the US and Qatar; by year's end a new pipeline supplying gas from Norway will be up and running.
- Further, Poland's storage facilities are nearly 80% full; that's well ahead of what is typical right now in Europe.
- The New York Times cites analysts who feel the move is less a major problem right now and more of a warning, as it "increases the risk of other early terminations for other European contracts," per a Jefferies analyst.
- MarketWatch echoes that, citing analysts who say all is manageable for now, but the situation would quickly turn should the stoppage be extended to Germany.
- The timing is fortuitous, the Times adds, in that the start of the warmer months means gas consumption will naturally decrease.
- Speaking of timing, a source tells Bloomberg that four European gas buyers have moved forward with paying in rubles per Russia's demands, and that should others decline to do so, the next round of stoppages would likely not occur until the next payment due date, which is in the second half of May.
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