Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, European countries have been looking to end their reliance on Russian fossil fuel exports. The bloc, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, has been vulnerable to Russian President Vladimir Putin – and he has been accused of deliberately squeezing supplies of energy over the past year in order to exert political pressure.
The EU has paid Moscow £18.7 billion per month for fossil fuel imports since the start of the invasion and now Poland and Lithuania appear to have had enough.
Yesterday, the two countries officially launched a new 508-kilometre Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL), which links the neighbouring countries and allows for gas exchange.
Speaking to Politico, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said that the pipeline “is a crucial move towards energy independence of the entire region, given the current geopolitical situation”.
She added: “[The] Kremlin’s regime is dependent on the incomes from oil and gas.
“Every reduction of Russia‘s incomes from energy sources has [a] crucial impact on the Russian economy and reduces Kremlin’s possibilities to finance the war against Ukraine.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that “the interconnector between the natural gas transmission systems of Poland and Lithuania” along with pipelines built across Latvia and Estonia, were a direct response to “another blackmail attempt” by Russia involving gas supplies.
He added: “Thanks to projects such as this, we provide ourselves with an alternative, the possibility of deliveries from markets other than Russia.
“I am glad that this interconnector will serve us and to a large extent ensure diversification for other European Union countries.”
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While Poland and Lithuania move ahead with their pipeline, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is facing a headache in Brussels, as experts warn that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is “handicapping” the bloc’s ability to sanction Russia.
Earlier this week, the EU Commission proposed a sixth sanctions package that includes an oil embargo aimed at depleting Russia’s sources of revenues and stopping feeding Vladimir Putin’s war machine in Ukraine.
But the EU’s effort could fall short of delivering on its promise over the refusal by Mr Orbán to get on board, as he currently opposes a complete ban on Russian imports, unless Hungary receives an exemption.
The European Union imports about 25 percent of its oil from Russia and 40 percent of its gas which is not currently included in the package but would be the next step, if the EU can move ahead with all its member states.
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