Russian energy giant Gazprom has confirmed it has halted gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria over the countries’ refusal to pay for supplies in roubles.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the company said services will not be restored until payments are made in the Russian currency.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas in roubles.
Poland’s deputy foreign minister said Warsaw can cope without Gazprom’s gas.
Marcin Przdacz told the BBC that Poland had “taken some decisions many years ago to prepare for such a situation” and said that as a result “now there are options to get the gas from other partners,” including the US and gulf nations.
UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News the decision to cut off gas supplies will have “a very damaging effect on Russia,” adding that such moves could lead to the country becoming “an economic pariah”.
Polish state gas company PGNiG confirmed that Gazprom’s supplies to the country had been halted.
PGNiG bought 53% of its gas imports from Gazprom in the first quarter of this year, but Warsaw says it can get gas from other sources.
It described the suspension as a breach of contract, adding that the company would take steps to reinstate the gas supply.
It is unclear whether supplies have ceased to Bulgaria after Sofia said early on Wednesday that gas continued to flow for the time being.
Bulgaria, which relies on Gazprom for more than 90% of its gas supply, also said it had taken steps to find alternative sources but no restrictions on gas consumption were currently required.
The country’s energy ministry said Bulgaria had fulfilled its obligations under the current contract with Gazprom and made all required payments. Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova accused Gazprom of breach of contract and said Sofia will continue to follow the EU’s position and pay for its supplies in euros.
Following the news, Poland’s climate ministry said the country’s energy supplies were secure.
Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said there was no need to draw gas from reserves and gas to customers would not be cut.
Mr Przydacz said his country had been preparing for the possibility Russia might limit gas exports by diversifying its supplies.
“I’m pretty sure that we will manage to handle this,” he told the BBC.
He added that the suspension proved Moscow was “not a reliable partner in any kind of business” and urged other European nations like Germany to support a ban on Russian energy imports.
Poland was already planning to stop importing Russian gas by the end of the year, when its long-term supply contract with Gazprom expires.
PGNiG said its underground gas storage was almost 80% full and, with summer approaching, demand was lower.
Poland also has alternative supply sources, including a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Swinoujscie.
On 1 May, a new gas pipeline connection with Lithuania is also due to open that will give Poland access to gas from Lithuania’s LNG terminal.
And a new pipeline delivering gas from Norway, known as the “Baltic Pipe”, comes online in October. It should reach full capacity by the end of the year and could replace all Russian deliveries.
Supplies from Russia account for about 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports.
However, many countries have pledged to move away from Russian energy in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
The US has declared a complete ban on Russian oil, gas and coal imports.
Meanwhile, the UK is to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, with gas to follow as soon as possible, and the EU is reducing gas imports by two-thirds.