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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Russia’s gas supplies to eastern Europe look uncertain

Poland’s state-owned oil and gas company PGNiG said Russia’s gas giant Gazprom had informed it on Tuesday that it would halt gas supplies that are delivered via the Yamal pipeline on Wednesday morning.

Igor Russak | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Russia’s gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria look uncertain on Wednesday morning after the countries refused Moscow’s demand to pay for gas supplies in rubles.

Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom had contacted Poland and Bulgaria’s state gas companies on Tuesday telling them that their supplies would be halted on Wednesday morning. It’s unclear whether its supplies have been affected yet; Poland said supplies had been cut but European operator data reported by Reuters showed some supplies had resumed this morning. It’s unclear what the situation in Bulgaria is right now.

Poland’s state-owned oil and gas company PGNiG said Russia’s gas giant Gazprom had informed it on Tuesday that it would halt gas supplies that are delivered via the Yamal pipeline on Wednesday morning.

PGNiG said in a statement Tuesday that the company is monitoring the situation “and is prepared for various scenarios” and to receive gas from other sources, but said that currently it has enough gas in storage and is meeting demand.

The halting of gas supplies to Poland, which imports around 45% of its natural gas from Russia, according to recent data from the EU, is another sign of rising tensions between Russia and the West following the invasion of Ukraine. One official in Kyiv described Russia’s latest move to cut supplies as “gas blackmail.”

Gazprom had also informed Bulgarian state gas company Bulgargaz that it would halt gas supplies as of Wednesday, the Energy Ministry said on Tuesday, although it’s uncertain whether the supplies have been cut. Bulgaria imported almost 73% of its natural gas from Russia in 2020, EU data shows.

Russia had demanded that countries importing its gas (the EU as a bloc imports around 40% of its natural gas from Russia every year) must pay in rubles, prompting a backlash from importers, including Poland and Bulgaria, which refused and said the demand is a breach of contract.

Holly Ellyatt

Global sanctions will push back Russian economy gains by 20 years, Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2022. Blinken and the defense secretary on Monday committed a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries. 

Al Drago | Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he believes Russians are feeling the effect of multiple rounds of coordinated global sanctions for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

“I think what we’re seeing is that people increasingly in Russia are feeling the effects of the disastrous decision by Putin to attack Ukraine,” Blinken said during testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“For example, upwards of 600 companies have left Russia, including many of the major consumer brands that we all know and are familiar with,” he said, adding, “They can’t buy the things they’ve been used to buying for the last almost 30 years.”

The nation’s top diplomat said that the gains of the last 20 years are being erased and Moscow’s ability to modernize key sectors of its economy is slowing. Despite all of that, Blinken said that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin still holds large support from his citizens, largely due to disinformation campaigns.

“For now, I think what we’re seeing is Russian people to the extent that they’re informed continue to support for the most part President Putin,” Blinken added.

In the weeks since Russia’s invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbor, Washington and its allies have imposed rounds of coordinated sanctions vaulting Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world’s most-sanctioned country.

 — Amanda Macias

U.S. will send diplomats back to Ukraine this week, Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2022. 

Bonnie Cash | Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers that the U.S. is sending its diplomats back to Ukraine this week.

The nation’s top diplomat added that the State Department is also working on plans to reopen its embassy in Kyiv.

“We are sending diplomats back to Ukraine this week and they will begin to assess how we can most effectively and securely reopen the embassy in Kyiv. And without going into too much detail in this setting, I anticipate that we will be in Lviv and then head to Kyiv subject to the president’s final decision,” Blinken said during testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

“We want to have our embassy reopened and we’re working to do that,” he added.

On Monday, President Joe Biden announced his plan to nominate Bridget Brink to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Brink, a career diplomat, is currently the U.S. ambassador to the Slovak Republic. 

 — Amanda Macias

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin calls Russian nuclear war rhetoric ‘very dangerous and unhelpful’

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to the media after the Ukraine Security Consultative Group meeting at Ramstein air base on April 26, 2022 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. The meeting is a U.S.

Thomas Lohnes | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called Russia’s recent rhetoric about the potential use of its nuclear weapons “very dangerous and unhelpful.”

“Nobody wants to see a nuclear war that nobody can win at. And as we do things, we are always mindful of making sure that we have the right balance and we’re taking the right approach,” Austin told reporters at a press briefing in Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

“There’s always a possibility that a number of things can happen but again, I think it’s it’s unhelpful and dangerous to rattle sabers and speculate about the use of nuclear weapons,” Austin said, following a trip to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Austin’s remarks come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that his country’s war with Ukraine could escalate into a nuclear one.

Lavrov said late on Monday that the risks of nuclear war are now “very, very significant and should not be underestimated.”

 — Amanda Macias

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