War in Ukraine: After Poland and Bulgaria, should we fear Russian gas cuts in France?

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Russia’s Gazprom has announced that it has stopped all gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. The company wants EU countries to pay its bills in rubles.

The valves are closed. Russia’s Gazprom announced on Wednesday, April 27, that it will no longer supply gas to Poland or Bulgaria. And so Russia is carrying out its threats: the Kremlin has, in effect, warned EU countries that it will halt all gas exports if the ruble bill is not paid. Bulgargaz (based in Bulgaria) and PGNiG have received a notification from Gazprom informing them to “suspend gas deliveries from April 27 until payment”.

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War in Ukraine: Suspension of Russian gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria

A severe blow, especially for Poland, almost 60% depends on Russian gas: “Poland consumes about 20 billion cubic meters of gas per year: this is half of what France consumes, describes Philippe Charles, an expert on energy issues at the Sabines Institute, with Medidispatch. It uses this gas to a large extent for heating: if the Russians continue to cut off gas until next winter, I do not know how they will act. ”

reject the ruble

In essence, the problem is the need to pay the bill in rubles. About 97% of contracts (between EU groups and Russian gas suppliers) provide for payment in euros or dollars […] Companies with such contracts should not comply with Russia’s demand, it would be in violation of the sanctions “imposed by EU countries, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, warned on Wednesday Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union commission.

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Vladimir Putin gave the ultimatum at the end of March. But the Russian decree allowed importing countries to open an account with Russia’s Gazprombank and deposit their payments there in dollars or euros. A method used by Russia to restore the value of the national currency by circumventing sanctions. “Within the EU, Hungary has only agreed to pay for the Russian gas it imports in rubles,” Thierry Bros, a professor at the Po Science Institute and an energy expert, explains to Medidispatch. Both France and Germany, for example, refuse to delve into such a system. “There may be a situation where tomorrow […] “There will be no more Russian gas,” said Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy, a few weeks ago.

France is not worried

If tomorrow Russia closes the doors wide, will France worry? Not that much, experts say. “France consumes 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually and depends 17% on Russian gas, summarizes Philippe Charles. France can count on importing gas from Norway (the main importer), in its four LNG terminals, and on its own gas reserves. If we make some savings on a national scale, we can get away with it.”

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War in Ukraine: France and Germany “preparing” to stop Russian gas deliveries

The consequences of closing the gates could be much heavier on a European scale: most of the 27 countries rely exclusively on them. “This is the case of Germany, 50% of the imported gas comes from Russia,” Thierry Bruce recalls. In its blackmail, the Kremlin makes the geography of its gas pipelines talk: it can in any case decide to supply gas only to certain regions of the European Union, as shown in the map below.

“Russia has just closed the Yamal River, which is the pipeline that goes through Belarus. There is still and always is the Northern Stream (which goes under the Baltic Sea) and the Brotherhood,” which runs through Ukraine, says Philip Charles. “If Putin closes these pipelines, it will be disastrous,” the expert comments.

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