Ukraine-Russia: Finland says Russia is cutting off its natural gas supplies

Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland after the country that applied for Nato membership this week refused President Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay in roubles, the Finnish state-owned energy company has said.

Finland is the latest country to be cut off from an energy supply that is used to generate electricity and power industry after refusing Russia’s decree.

Poland and Bulgaria were cut off late last month, but had prepared for the loss of gas or are getting supplies from other countries.

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Mr Putin has declared “unfriendly foreign buyers” open two accounts in state-owned Gazprombank, one to pay in euros and dollars as specified in contracts and another in roubles.

Ukrainian soldiers unload a destroyed Russian tank to install it as a symbol of war in central Kyiv. Picture: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Italian energy company Eni said this week it was “starting procedures” to open a euro and a rouble account.

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, has said countries making a payment in the currency listed in their contracts and formally signalling the payment process is concluded is acceptable under EU sanctions. But it says opening a second account in roubles would breach them.

That has left countries scrambling to decide what to do next.

Finland refused the new payment system, with energy company Gasum saying its supply would be halted on Saturday.

CEO Mika Wiljanen called the cut-off “highly regrettable”.

But he said “provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months”.

Natural gas accounted for just 6 per cent of Finland’s total energy consumption in 2020, Finnish broadcaster YLE said. Almost all is imported from Russia.

That pales in comparison to big customers such as Italy and Germany, who get 40 per cent and 35 per cent of their gas from Russia, respectively.

According to Gasum, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom said in April that future payments in the supply contract should be made in roubles instead of euros.

It comes after Finland, along with Sweden, applied to join the Nato military organisation, marking one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s war on Ukraine that could rewrite Europe’s security map.

The move by Russia comes as Ukrainian authorities said their troops had expelled an attack in the east, as Moscow struggled to gain ground in the region that is now the focus of the war.

Battered by their long siege of the vital port city of Mariupol, Russian troops need time to regroup, according to an assessment by Britain’s Ministry of Defence. But they may not get it.

The city and the steelworks where Ukrainian fighters have held off the Russian assault for weeks have become a symbol of Ukraine’s stoic resistance and surprising ability to hinder a much larger force.

On Friday, a number of soldiers – just how many was unclear – were still holed up in the Azovstal plant, following the surrender of more than 1,700 soldiers in recent days.

The dead from the battle are also being removed, according to Denis Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment, which is among those defending the plant.

Speaking of the “fallen heroes”, he said: “I hope soon relatives and the whole of Ukraine will be able to bury the fighters with honours.”

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