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First EU country stops buying Russian gas

Lithuania’s government said on Saturday that it has halted all purchases of Russian natural gas, making irrelevant President Vladimir Putin’s demand that all “unfriendly states” pay for the fuel in rubles amid heavy sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.

“In these circumstances, Russia’s demand to pay for gas in rubles is meaningless, as Lithuania no longer orders Russian gas and no longer plans to pay for it,” the Lithuanian Energy Ministry said in a statement.

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The country has a population of only 2.6 million (down from 3.7 million in 1991) and is not a major industrial power. 

Lithuania is the first among the EU states traditionally supplied by Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom to completely wean itself off imports from Moscow, Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys claimed. “This is the result of a multi-year, coherent energy policy and timely infrastructure decisions,” he said.

The ministry said that Lithuania’s gas distribution network has been operating without any supplies from Russia since Friday, which was Putin’s deadline for payment in rubles. The move came in response to “Russia’s energy blackmail” and the conflict in Ukraine, according to the statement.

Putin’s demand required buyers to open ruble accounts in Russian banks through which to pay for their gas. “If such payments aren’t made, we will consider this a failure by the client to comply with its obligations,” he said on Thursday. In response, Germany and Austria activated emergency plans for potential gas rationing.

All of Lithuania’s gas supplies now come through the Klaipeda LNG import terminal on the country’s Baltic Sea coast. The terminal has bookings for three large cargoes to arrive each month, the Energy Ministry said, and gas can also be provided through links with Latvia and Poland if necessary. Officials didn’t explain where that gas originally comes from. 

Russia supplies about 40% of the gas used by EU nations and around one third of their oil. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has called for the bloc’s members to cut off both gas and oil imports from Russia. “Europe must stop buying Russian gas and oil because the Kremlin regime uses this money to finance destruction of Ukrainian cities and attacks on peaceful civilians,” Nauseda told reporters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that it would be impossible for some countries, including his, to replace gas supplies from Russia. On top of that, Federation of German Industries President Siegfried Russwurm said on Thursday that German industry would “collapse” if it were cut off from Russian gas.

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