WARSAW – The Russian state gas company has announced the “complete suspension” of supplying natural gas to Poland through a major pipeline, its Polish counterpart said on Tuesday, in an escalation of economic conflict over the war in Ukraine.
Poland gets more than 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia, and cutting off that supply could seriously damage Poland’s ability to heat homes and run businesses. Unlike some of its neighbors, Poland burns coal for most of its electricity, not gas, so it is less vulnerable in that regard.
Since the Russian invasion on February 24, the United States and its allies have imposed increasingly tough economic sanctions on Russia, severely damaging Russia’s economy. For the European Union, the most difficult part of that campaign was trying to get rid of Russian fossil fuels, Moscow’s main source of foreign revenue.
The bloc has vowed to halt its large imports of Russian oil and coal, albeit over a period of months, as it looks for replacements and adjusts to higher fuel costs. But Europe is even more dependent on Russian gas, and ending those imports would be more economically damaging; EU ministers have said they will cut power from Russia but won’t cut it until 2030.
PGNiG, the state-owned company that is Poland’s main buyer of Russian gas, said it had received a letter from Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy giant, saying that all supplies through the Yamal pipeline would be halted. There was no indication when this would happen.
Yamal stretches from Northern Siberia to Poland and Germany. Most of the flow from Russia to Poland passes through it. It’s not clear that the move would affect supplies to Germany, by far the largest importer of Russian gas, as there are other major pipelines connecting the two countries, including Nord Stream 1.
Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin has demanded that energy sales be paid in rubles to support its faltering currency, although foreign sales contracts generally require payment in dollars. Poland and other countries have refused to pay in rubles.
Russia is particularly angry with Poland for Warsaw’s strong support for Ukraine, which received many of its NATO-supplied weapons through Polish territory.