The European Union had been preparing for the possibility that Russia could stop supplying natural gas, said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. Nevertheless, she told a news conference, the Russian move was an attempt to “use gas as a blackmail tool”.
Poland and Bulgaria will soon receive gas from neighboring EU countries to make up for the loss of Russian gas, she said, declaring that “the era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end”.
Both Poland and Bulgaria said the Russian lockdown would have little impact. In Poland, where electricity is largely generated from coal and not gas, the government tried to allay public fears. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki assured Poles that the gas storage tanks were three-quarters full – much higher than in other countries.
And if the Kremlin’s plan was to intimidate Poland and Bulgaria with a future of unheated homes and cold meals in the hopes of breaking western unity to help Ukraine, it may have been miscalculated. On a sunny spring day in Warsaw, the Polish capital, many people shrugged at the news – mixed with disbelief that anyone would ever consider Russia a reliable supplier.
“We don’t have to worry if the weather stays like this,” said Joanna Gres, a ballet dancer with a group associated with the Polish army.
Bulgaria too has sufficient gas supplies for the coming month, Alexander Nikolov, the energy minister, told Bulgarian news media, swearing that the country would “not negotiate under pressure and with bowed head. †
A top German official said the flow of Russian gas to Germany, Russia’s largest energy customer, remained stable, but added that the country could live on existing reserves until at least next winter.