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Europe denounces ‘gas blackmail’ as sanctions batter Russian economy -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: This is an image of a Gaz-System station at Rembelszczyzna (near Warsaw), Poland on April 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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By Marek Strzelecki, Tsvetelia Tsolova and Pavel Polityuk

WARSAW/SOFIA/KYIV – European leaders have denounced Russia’s attempt to “blackmail” Ukraine’s allies regarding gas supplies. This is as Western sanctions are hammering the Russian economy that has been in the worst financial crisis since 1991.

After Russia cut gas supplies to Bulgaria, Poland and other countries for refusing to pay in rubles, Ukraine declared that Europe must stop relying on Russia as a trade partner. The shutoff revealed Europe’s divisions and weaknesses on Wednesday.

Germany, which is Russia’s top buyer, wants to stop buying Russian oil in the next few days. But, they warned against a Russian blockade or embargo that could lead to Europe’s largest economy going into recession.

Russian economic ministry documents indicated that Russia’s economy might shrink up to 12.4% this year. Further evidence of the impact of foreign sanctions.

About $300 billion has been frozen by foreign sanctions on Russia’s $640 billion worth of gold and foreign currency reserves at the time it invaded Ukraine. Russia also faces high inflation and capital flight as well as a potential debt default because of the sanctions.

Gazprom (MCX): Russia’s largest gas export monopoly suspended supplies to Bulgarian and Polish gas on Wednesday because they refused to pay in rubles, according to a Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decree. This was to reduce the sanctions’ impact.

Late Wednesday, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian President, stated that “the sooner everybody in Europe recognizes they cannot depend upon Russia for trade,”

Although the President of the European Commission claimed that Gazprom’s suspension was “yet more attempt by Russia gas to blackmail”, EU ambassadors demanded clearer guidance as to whether sending Euros violates sanctions.

On May 2, EU energy ministers will meet in France.

Dmitry Peskov (Kremlin spokesperson) said Russia is a reliable source of energy, and denied that Russia was engaged in blackmail.

Although he refused to reveal how many countries have agreed to gas prices in roubles for their gas, European customers reported that the gas supply was normal.

‘WAR CRIMES’

Canadian lawmakers unanimously voted Wednesday to declare Russia’s aggression in Ukraine “genocide”. Members of parliament stated there was evidence that Russia committed systemic war crimes against humanity.

Canadian parliament voted in favor of Russia’s mass atrocities, willful killing of civilians, desecration corpses, forcible child transfer, torture and physical harm and rape.

Invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, has left many cities in rubble. More than 5,000,000 people fled abroad to escape the conflict. This has raised fears about a wider conflict within the West that was not thought of in decades.

Russia refers to it as a “special operation” for disarming Ukraine, and denies that it targeted civilians. Ukraine and its allies consider the war an act of unprovoked aggression.

Amal Clooney is a human rights lawyer who urged U.N. Members to focus their attention on international justice for Ukraine’s war crimes.

Moscow has begun a new offensive in eastern Ukraine to capture the two Donbas provinces that were seized by the Russian invade force after it was defeated at Kyiv’s outskirts last month.

Ukraine claims that Russian forces used tear gas, stun grenades and other chemical weapons to disperse an anti-Ukraine protest in Kherson. It is the country’s first large city. Ria News agency reports that rockets produced a string of strong explosions in the center of Kherson.

Authorities said that blasts had been heard in three Russian regions bordering Ukraine on Wednesday. A ammunition depot located in Belgorod was also set ablaze.

These and other incidents have not been confirmed by Kyiv, but they were referred to as “payback.” Mikhaylo podolyak, the presidential advisor wrote that “Karma was a cruel thing” on social media.

A representative of Mariupol’s mayor said that Russian forces have re-attacked the Azovstal steel facility, where some fighters and civilians are still huddled.

The possibility that the conflict could escalate to Moldova has raised concerns. In this country, pro-Russian separatists accuse Ukraine of attacking their area, which is occupied since 1990s by Russian troops.

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