Russian energy giant Gazprom on Wednesday halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for failing to pay for gas in roubles, the Kremlin's toughest response yet to the crippling sanctions imposed by the West over the conflict in Ukraine.
Poland and Bulgaria are the first countries to have their gas cut off by Europe's main supplier since Moscow started what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24.
"Gazprom has completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgargaz (Bulgaria) and PGNiG (Poland) due to absence of payments in roubles," Gazprom said in a statement.
Gazprom also warned that transit via Poland and Bulgaria would be cut if gas was taken illegally.
Russia's decision to cut off gas supply to Poland will add to its status as an economic and political pariah, British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.
"It (halting gas supply) will have a ... very damaging effect on Russia as well because it is becoming further and further, more and more, not just a political pariah, but an economic pariah," Raab told Sky News.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered European countries to pay Gazprom, the world's biggest natural gas company, in roubles after what the West froze Russian assets and largely cut Moscow out of the West's economic system.
Putin has demanded that countries he terms "unfriendly" agree to a scheme under which they would open accounts at Gazprombank and make payments for Russian gas imports in euros or dollars that would be converted into roubles.
Poland has repeatedly said it will not pay for Russian gas in roubles and has planned not to extend its gas contract with Gazprom after it expires in the end of this year.
"Payments for gas supplied from April 1 must be made in roubles using the new payments details, about which the counterparties were informed in a timely manner," Gazprom said on Wednesday.
The benchmark Dutch front-month gas contract TRNLTTFMc1 at the TTF hub jumped by more than 19% on the day on Wednesday morning to 117 euros per megawatt hour.