Moscow cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last night as tensions between Russia and the West escalate over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. While gas flows through the Yamal-Europe pipeline have since restarted, the move to cut off Bulgaria, in particular, has been described as “puzzling”. Olga Tokariuk a non-resident Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, said: “Frankly, I am puzzled about Russia’s decision to stop supplying gas to Bulgaria, of all countries.
“There is a strong pro-Russian sentiment in Bulgarian society and politics.
“Bulgaria refused to send air defence systems S-300 to Ukraine not to irritate Russia. Will it send it now?”
This comes after Putin threatened to cut off gas to “unfriendly” countries that did not purchase his gas in rubles.
While Poland refused to submit to this demand, Bulgaria has argued that it did in fact comply with Russian terms.
The Ministry in Sofia said: “Bulgargaz received a notification today, April 26, that natural gas supplies from Gazprom Export will be suspended starting April 27.
“The Bulgarian side has fully met its obligations and has made all payments required under its current contract in a timely manner, strictly and in accordance with its terms.”
And Bulgaria was clearly not happy about the Russian move.
Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said: “Because all trade and legal obligations are being observed, it is clear that at the moment [Russian] natural gas is being used more as a political and economic weapon in the current war.”
The gas cut likely sparked panic in Bulgaria, as it relies on Russia for a staggering 90 percent of its gas supply.
But the country appears to have changed its stance on Russia after earlier maintaining that it was taking a mutual position on the war.
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He said: “We supported all the sanctions.
“We’ve become a very, very predictable and strong supporter (of NATO and EU moves).”
He added: “Bulgaria is not anymore a soft country that has only balancing acts.”
Sofia has also said that it supports sanctioning Russia’s energy sector, but has asked to be exempted from an EU package.
Mr Petkov told Reuters: “Bulgaria would support all kinds of measures, because we are really against the war, but these two (oil and gas), maybe we would ask for an exception.
“We do not have current alternatives right now, we are too dependent.”