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Russia has announced it will stop exporting natural gas to Finland this week, just two days after the Scandinavian country applied for membership to NATO in response to security concerns posed by the Kremlin following its invasion of Ukraine.
Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, said on Friday it would be stopping all shipments of gas into the country this week, although the Finnish government has since reassured its citizens that there would be no disruption to its services.
It has since been confirmed that Russia cut supplies at around 4:00am on Saturday (21 May) morning.
The decision comes after the Finnish government refused to pay for their supplies using Russian rubles - an ultimatum the Kremlin has been imposing on 'non-friendly' countries in order to bypass the sanctions imposed upon it by Western countries following the start of the Ukrainian conflict.
Although much of Europe is reliant on Russian energy to some degree, the overall effectiveness of the move remains to be seen - for instance, while Finland imports most of its gas from Russia, natural gas only makes up a fraction of its total energy consumption, and authorities have claimed the move was both expected and accounted for.
Finland’s state energy provider Gasum announced in a statement that it would instead seek to import its gas through the Balticconnector pipeline – which links Finland to Estonia – and assured customers that filling stations would still run normally in the meantime.
"The amount of gas needed by the Finnish gas market is imported into the Finnish gas system through the Balticconnector entry point in accordance with the nominations made by the market parties. Gasgrid Finland has directed gas imports in the Balticconnector and the gas system is currently in balance," the company said in a statement.
In response to the development, Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said: “It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted.
⚡️Russia cuts off gas supplies to Finland.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 21, 2022
According to the Finnish gas firm Gasum, it will “supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline.”
The decision comes after Gasum’s earlier refusal to pay for Russian gas in rubles.
“However, we have been carefully preparing for this situation and 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.”
When asked about the matter, a Kremlin spokesperson said 'it is obvious that nobody is going to deliver anything for free.'
Russia also cut off its supply of electricity to Finland last Sunday, after threatening retaliation should the country join NATO.
Moscow had previously warned Finland that any NATO membership application would be 'a grave mistake with far-reaching consequences'.
However despite this the Kremlin later tempered its response, with Russian president Vladimir Putin saying accession to NATO would pose 'no immediate threat' to his country.
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