VILNIUS –Russia's recent decision to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria is aimed at putting more pressure ahead of the EU's plans to introduce an oil embargo as part of its sixth package of sanctions for this country, Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas says, hoping that the move won’t pour cold water on the determination to give up Russian oil.
"The message is very clear. On the one hand, it is easier to replace oil, and I hope that this will not undermine the emerging political will to include an embargo on oil into the sixth sanction package, which is what Lithuania has been pressing for and arguing about with its partners in the West all along," he told reporters ahead of the Lithuanian Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
In his words, "by cutting off gas, Russia is sending a message that if you don't buy oil, you won't get gas, which could be more painful for Europe", because finding alternatives to gas is more difficult than in the case of oil.
"As they see that the whole process is moving towards disconnection from Russia's energy resources, they will try to cause as much damage as possible," Adomenas noted.
Asked what the EU's response to Russia's action will be, as announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Adomenas said it would be "a complex of measures, which it is too early to talk about until it has been discussed at the level of heads of state".
"It's important to secure energy alternatives to the energy resources that are currently being lost, and this requires the use of existing gas import mechanisms to ensure that those countries are not left without energy resources. We are speaking about a set of measures that is too early to talk about before it is discussed at the level of heads of state," he said.
Earlier in the day, the EU said it was "prepared" for a scenario in which Moscow could suspend gas supplies to the 27-nation bloc and was planning a "coordinated" response in the event of Russia's Gazprom cutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.
Earlier, Gazprom announced it was stopping gas supplies to Poland and heavily dependent Bulgaria because these two EU member states refused to pay for Russian gas in Russian roubles.
As Western democracies expanded sanctions imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin warned EU member states last month they would lose gas supplies if they did not pay in roubles.
The EU imported around 40 percent of natural gas from Russia to meet the block's needs last year. Bulgaria and Poland have said they are ready to get gas they need from other sources.