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  21 May 2022, 12:58

Russia halts gas supplies to Finland

HELSINKI, May 21, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Russia on Saturday stopped providing
natural gas to neighbouring Finland, which has angered Moscow by applying for
NATO membership, after the Nordic country refused to pay supplier Gazprom in
rubles.

Following Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has asked clients
from "unfriendly countries" -- including EU member states -- to pay for gas
in rubles, a way to sidestep Western financial sanctions against its central
bank.

Gazprom said in a statement Saturday that it had "completely stopped gas
deliveries" as it had not received ruble payments from Finland's state-owned
energy company Gasum "by the end of the working day on May 20".

Gazprom said it had supplied 1.49 billion cubic metres of natural gas to
Finland in 2021, equal to about two thirds of the country's gas consumption.

However, natural gas accounts for around eight percent of Finland's energy.

Gasum said it would make up for the shortfall from other sources through the
Balticconnector pipeline, which links Finland to Estonia, and assured that
filling stations would run normally.

"Natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum's supply contract have been cut
off," the company said in a statement.

In April, Gazprom Export demanded that future payments in the supply contract
be made in rubles instead of euros.

Gasum rejected the demand and announced on Tuesday it was taking the issue to
arbitration.

Gazprom Export said it would defend its interests in court by any "means
available".

Gasum said it would be able to secure gas from other sources and that gas
filling stations in the network area would continue "normal operation".

- Rift over NATO bid -

In efforts to mitigate the risks of relying on Russian energy exports, the
Finnish government on Friday also announced it had signed a 10-year lease
agreement for an LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal ship with US-based
Excelerate Energy.

On Sunday, Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after
its energy firm RAO Nordic claimed payment arrears, although the shortfall
was quickly replaced.

Finland, along with neighbouring Sweden, this week broke its historical
military non-alignment and applied for NATO membership, after public and
political support for the western alliance soared following the invasion of
Ukraine.

Moscow has warned Finland that any NATO membership application would be "a
grave mistake with far-reaching consequences".

Both Finland and Sweden are seemingly on the fast track to joining the
military alliance, with US President Joe Biden offering "full, total,
complete backing" to their bids.

But all 30 existing NATO members must agree on any new entrants, and Turkey
has condemned the Nordic neighbours' alleged toleration of Kurdish militants
and has so far voiced opposition to letting them in.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said the Kremlin would respond to
any NATO expansion by creating more military bases in western Russia.

Saturday's halt to gas shipments follows Moscow cutting off Poland and
Bulgaria last month in a move the European Union described as "blackmail".

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