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all brakes no gas

EU officials compare Russian gas shut-offs to 'blackmail'

Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas company, cut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, an escalation European Union officials have equated to "blackmail," The Washington Post reports.

The Kremlin said it shut off the gas supply to Polish and Bulgarian gas companies for failing to pay in Russian rubles, as was ordered. The suspension will not be lifted "until the payments are made" correctly, Gazprom said Wednesday.

Moscow warned of a similar fate for others who refused to pay in their desired currency — and the EU was not happy.

"The announcement ... is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a statement. "This is unjustified and unacceptable."

Both Poland and Bulgaria have enough natural gas from other EU countries "to keep the lights on for now," the Post writes. What's not clear, however, is "how the bloc would manage additional cutoffs, especially if Russia stopped supplying major customers Germany and Italy."

Von der Leyen said member states have made "contingency plans" for such shut-offs and will meet to discuss additional options soon.

Notably, Germany worries an incident on its turf will "trigger a recession in Europe's largest economy," the Post writes.

"The situation has been tense for months," German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said. "But payments will continue to be made in euros."