Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AFP) – Ukraine halted the flow of Russian natural gas on Wednesday through a hub feeding European homes and stoves, while Kyiv’s military claimed some gains in fierce battles near a key northeastern city.
at 11 weeks, war It played out on the battlefields of Ukrainian towns and cities but also in energy and financial markets, as Ukraine’s allies in the West sought to deprive Russia of funds needed to finance the war through sanctions and energy embargoes.
It was not immediately clear what practical effect the gas cuts would have on European households on Wednesday: Ukraine’s pipeline operator said it would divert supplies to another hub, and an analyst said transit should not be affected.
But Russia’s state-owned giant Gazprom has signaled some backlash: it said it was sending gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine in the amount of 72 million cubic metres, apparently down 25% from the day before.
Preliminary flow data indicate higher rates moving through a second station in Ukrainian-controlled territory. Russian gas also flows to Europe via other pipelines.
It was also not clear whether Russia would receive any immediate hit, as it has long-term contracts and other ways to transport gas.
But the move could be symbolic because it is the first time Ukraine has disrupted the flow to the West. It comes as the European Union has sought to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, phase out its use of coal and consider doing the same for oil. Gas is a more complex problem, due to how much Europe is used and the technical difficulties in getting it elsewhere.
On the battlefield, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Ukrainian army had expelled Russian forces from four villages near Kharkiv – the country’s second largest city, and key to the Russian offensive in eastern Donbass.
after his forces Failed to overrun the capital in the early days of the warRussian President Vladimir Putin has turned his focus to the region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland that has also been the site of fighting between Moscow-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces for years.
Zelensky suggested that the army was gradually pushing the Russian forces away from Kharkiv. As his forces appear to be gathering strength in an emerging counterattack, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed what appeared to be increasing confidence — and broadening goals — on Tuesday. He pointed out to the Financial Times that Ukraine could go beyond simply forcing Russia to return to areas it controlled before the invasion began 11 weeks ago.
Kuleba’s statement seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities: Russian forces had advanced and controlled more Donbass than they had done before the war began. But it highlights how Ukraine hobbled a larger and better-armed Russian army, surprising many who had predicted a faster end to the conflict.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Ukraine is targeting Russian forces on Snake Island in the northwest Black Sea, in an attempt to disrupt Moscow’s attempts to expand its influence.
Russia sought to reinforce its garrison on Snake Island, while the ministry said on Twitter: “Ukraine succeeded in striking Russian air defenses and resupplying ships with Bayraktar drones.” She said Russian resupply ships had minimal protection after the Russian Navy’s subsequent withdrawal to Crimea The loss of the flagship of its fleet in the Black Sea.
Satellite images analyzed by the Associated Press show the fighting there.
But the statement warned: “If Russia reinforces its position on (Snake) Island with strategic air defense and coastal defense cruise missiles, it may control the northwest Black Sea.”
Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it would halt Russian shipments through a hub in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists due to “occupation forces” interference, including an apparent gas seizure. She also complained about interference all the way last month.
European gas futures swung Tuesday and Wednesday in the news, meaning consumers could face higher energy bills – at a time when prices are already rising.
Higher prices would benefit Russia, even though it now has huge foreign reserves given the rapid rise in crude oil prices in recent months as global travel and business resumed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic’s mass lockdowns.
The center in question deals with about a third of Russian gas that passes through Ukraine to Western Europe. Russian natural gas giant Gazprom put the figure at about a quarter.
The move comes as Western powers look to increase economic pressure on Moscow and bolster Ukraine’s defenders. The US House of Representatives approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said a Russian missile attack targeted an area around Zaporizhia, destroying unspecified infrastructure. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The city in the southeast of the country was a haven for many civilians who fled the Russian siege in the devastated port city of Mariupol.
With much of the fighting focused in the east, some analysts have suggested that Russia may be trying to deploy Kyiv’s forces weakly, by bombing the southern port of Odessa, The main gateway to the grain that feeds the world In addition to a major transit point for Western weapons. Russia The city was targeted by several missile strikes this weekthe Ukrainians said Tuesday.
To protect Odessa, Kyiv might need to move troops to the southwest, pulling them away from the eastern front in the Donbass, where they would fight near Kharkiv to push the Russians back across the border.
Russian warplanes twice fired unguided missiles on Tuesday at the Sumy region, northeast of Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian border guard service. The district governor said the rockets hit several apartment buildings, but no one was killed. Russian mortars fell on the Chernihiv region along the Ukrainian border with Belarus, but there were no reports of casualties.
Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Kelvin Chan in London, and AP staff worldwide contributed.
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