Russia said it will stop supplying gas to Poland and Bulgaria today after the countries refused to pay its supplier, Gazprom, in roubles.
Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas imports, said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom and that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement.
However, Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria continued to flow this morning according to Vladimir Malinov, executive director of Bulgarian gas network operator Bulgartransgaz, who told Reuters on Wednesday that gas supplies were continuing for the time being.
Bulgaria’s energy ministry said Russia’s Gazprom informed Bulgarian state gas company Bulgargaz it will halt gas supplies as of Wednesday.
The ministry will give a news briefing on the situation later on Wednesday morning.
Gas supplies under the Yamal contract to Poland also edged up after dropping to zero earlier, data from the European Union network of gas transmission operators seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday.
Physical gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline from Belarus to Poland were at 3,449,688 kWh/hour at 6:22am CET (4:22am GMT).
A series of blasts sounded across in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border early Wednesday morning as authorities extinguished a fire at an ammunition depot.
Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said he woke “to a loud sound like an explosion” at about 3:35am in an update posted to Telegram.
“So far, not a single duty service of the city and the region has found the cause of this sound,” he added.
The explosions were said to have come from near the village of Staraya Nelidovka which lies about 40km outside the Ukrainian border.
“According to preliminary information, an ammunition depot is on fire. There is no destruction of residential buildings, houses. There were no casualties among the civilian population,” Gladkov said.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.
Russian forces have established control over the settlement of Zarichne after storming the settlement of Yampil, the Ukrainian military has said in its latest operational report as of 6am this morning.
In the Russian settlements of the Belgorod region, Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces claimed that Russian forces launched two missile divisions of the OTRK “Iskander-M”.
Ukrainian defenders continue to be blocked in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol while Russian forceS carry out “filtration measures” on civilians, officials added.
Russia is also attempting to replenish losses by transporting new equipment into Ukraine via railway, the report reads.
Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments until my colleague, Martin Belam, takes the reins a little later in the day.
It is just past 7am in Ukraine. Here’s what we know so far:
- A series of blasts were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border amid reports an ammunition depot caught fire, local officials have said. Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said he woke “to a loud sound like an explosion” at about 3:35am in an update posted to Telegram. The explosions were said to have come from near the village of Staraya Nelidovka which lies about 40km outside the Ukrainian border.
- Russia will stop supplying gas to Poland and Bulgaria from Wednesday. Warsaw has refused to pay its supplier, Gazprom, in roubles and earlier announced that it was imposing sanctions on 50 entities and individuals including Russia’s biggest gas company. Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas imports, said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom and that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement. Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Russia was “beginning the gas blackmail of Europe”. However, data from the European Union network of gas transmission operators seen by Reuters showed gas supplies under the Yamal contract to Poland edged up on Wednesday.
- Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he believes Russia is trying to destabilise the situation in Moldova’s Transnistrian region after a series of explosions there, adding that Ukrainian armed forces were ready for a possible escalation by Russian troops in the temporarily occupied territory. “The goal is obvious – to destabilise the situation in the region, to threaten Moldova. They show that if Moldova supports Ukraine, there will be certain steps,” Zelenskiy said in his latest national address. Russia has refused to rule out Moldova’s breakaway region Transnistria being drawn into the Ukraine war.
- Zelenskiy said the “free world has the right to self-defence” after predicting that Russia intends to not only seize the territory of Ukraine but to “dismember the entire centre and east of Europe” and “deal a global blow to democracy”.
- Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is expected to call on allies of Ukraine to “ramp up” and “double down” on military production including of planes and tanks in a speech set to be delivered on Wednesday. Truss said the UK’s new approach “will be based on three areas: military strength, economic security and deeper global alliances”. Russia’s victory will have “terrible consequences across the globe”, Truss is expected to say. “We must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine.
- Australia will send six M777 howitzers and ammunition to Ukraine as part of a A$26.7m package in its response to “Russia’s brutal, unrelenting and illegal invasion” a statement from prime minister Scott Morrison and defence minster Peter Dutton said on Wednesday. Canada aims to send eight armoured vehicles “as quickly as possible”, minister of defence Anita Anand announced.
- The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, travelled to Moscow and, in a joint press conference with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, Guterres said the UN was “ready to fully mobilise its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol”. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereschuk, said there was “no point” in the UN if there was no real humanitarian corridor from Mariupol. Guterres also met Russian president Vladimir Putin who described the situation in the besieged city of Mariupol as “tragic” and “complicated”. Moscow and Kyiv were continuing talks online, Putin said.
- The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog has condemned the Russian occupation of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, describing it as “very, very dangerous”. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general, Rafael Grossi, is heading an expert mission thre to “deliver equipment, conduct radiological assessments and restore safeguards monitoring systems”.
- Zelenskiy said “no one in the world can feel safe” after Russia threatened Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and called for “global control” over Russia’s nuclear facilities and nuclear technology after meeting with director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi. “No other country in the world since 1986 has posed such a major threat to nuclear security, to Europe and the world” he said.
- British prime minister Boris Johnson said he does not expect Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Johnson said Putin “has a lot of room for manoeuvre” and could back down.
- Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace as Russian air activity focuses primarily on southern and eastern Ukraine, the UK’s ministry of defence has said.
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