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ENVIRONMENTALISTS urged European governments to free themselves from the grip of the climate-wrecking fossil fuel industry today after Russia stopped supplying gas to Poland and Bulgaria.
Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas company, announced that it was turning off the taps because the Polish and Bulgarian governments had refused to pay for the fossil fuel in roubles as President Vladimir Putin had demanded following Western sanctions that have cut off Russian access to about half its foreign currency reserves.
Though both nations are reliant on Russian gas, which makes up 45 per cent of Poland’s supplies and 90 per cent of Bulgaria’s, their governments insisted that there would be no immediate shortage.
The European Union said in a statement that Gazprom’s action was “yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail.”
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the bloc was “prepared for this scenario.”
Greenpeace, however, accused the EU and Britain of hypocrisy, pointing out that both continue to bankroll the war in Ukraine through their imports of Russian fossil fuels.
“The EU and the UK send almost €200 million [£168m] to Russia every single day for oil imports alone,” the environmental campaign group said.
“As European leaders develop their response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, they have been reluctant to include oil in the sanctions, despite it being Russia’s main source of income.”
The initial EU proposals for phasing out Russian gas, which were expected to be announced next month, “completely omitted the transport sector and focused largely on the diversification of the EU’s fossil gas imports, as well as developing imports of hydrogen and biogas,” Greenpeace said.
Human rights group Global Witness criticised both Gazprom’s move and European governments’ reliance on its gas.
“Being this vulnerable to the whims of an increasingly volatile dictator is unsustainable,” Global Witness senior adviser Louis Wilson said.
“It is up to European governments to decide whether they will continue to finance Putin’s war and leave millions of Europeans at the mercy of a dictator or sanction Russian energy imports, tax energy company profits and put the renewable transition on a war footing.
“This is a major opportunity for Europe to break free from the deadly grip of fossil fuels once and for all. Ending Russian energy imports is not just an act of solidarity with the Ukrainian people but of clear and immediate self-preservation.”
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