Russia’s President Warns NATO After Gas Cuts
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Russia’s president warned Wednesday that any country interfering in Ukraine would face a “lightning-fast” response after he had already cut off natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, members of the NATO military alliance.
Vladimir Putin suggested economic and military action against ‘unfriendly nations’ saying Russia would use “tools no one else can boast of having” if anyone “creates unacceptable threats.”
Moscow had already threatened to use nuclear weapons if it felt the “existence” of Russia as a state was at stake, though critics viewed that as no more than Cold War-era rhetoric because it would trigger a U.S.-led nuclear response.
However, Moscow’s decision to halt crucial natural gas supplies to parts of Europe marked an escalation in the economic war of sanctions and countersanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Russian energy giant Gazprom said it cut the supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to pay in roubles. Hungary, another central Eastern European nation heavily dependent on Russian deliveries, hasn’t refused to pay in rubles, said its foreign minister Péter Szijjártó.
“We have found a solution where [Hungary] will pay in euros to an account set up at Gazprom Bank, which will then exchange it to roubles and transfer it to Gazprom Export,” he said. He added that neighboring Slovakia is using “a similar method.”
European leaders called Russia’s gas cut “blackmail” and threatened legal action. It could force targeted nations to ration natural gas and deal another blow to economies suffering from rising prices. However, it was also expected to deprive Russia of badly needed income to fund its expensive war effort.
MAJOR WEAPONS GATEWAY
Poland had expected Russian actions as it has been a significant gateway for delivering weapons to Ukraine and confirmed this week that it is sending the country tanks.
Just hours before Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom acted, Poland announced a new set of sanctions against the firm and other Russian businesses and oligarchs.
Bulgaria, under a new liberal government that took office last fall, has cut many of its old ties to Moscow and supported punitive measures against the Kremlin. It has also hosted Western fighter jets at a new NATO outpost on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
The gas cuts do not immediately put the two countries in dire trouble. Experts said Poland, especially, has been working for many years to line up other suppliers. And the continent is heading into summer, making natural gas less essential for households.
Also, Russian gas deliveries to both Poland and Bulgaria were due to end later this year anyway.
Still, the cutoff and the Kremlin warning that other countries could be next sent shivers of worry through the 27-nation European Union. Germany, the largest economy on the continent, and Italy are among Europe’s biggest consumers of Russian natural gas. However, they, too, are taking steps to reduce their dependence on Moscow.
FIGHTING STILL ESCALATING
The economic setbacks came as fighting continued Thursday in several parts of Ukraine, with Russia focusing its invasion on capturing much of eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky also accused Russian special services of carrying out attacks in a breakaway region of Moldova, Europe’s poorest nation.
Explosions already rocked Moldova’s breakaway region of Trans-Dniester, knocking a pair of powerful broadcast antennas out of service, several sources confirmed.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Kyiv for talks with Zelensky, who expressed frustration over a perceived lack of international efforts to save lives in the devastated port city of Mariupol.
Russian forces were on Wednesday pounding a vast steelworks in Mariupol, where the southern Ukrainian city’s last defenders and some civilians are holed up, authorities said.
Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the city mayor, said there had been no let-up in airstrikes on the Azovstal plant despite Putin saying there was no need to storm it after declaring victory Mariupol.
At least some 20,000 people have died in the city in relentless Russian shelling, Ukrainian authorities claim.
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