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Bulgaria to Sue Gazprom Over Suspended Gas Supplies

The Bulgarian Energy Ministry is preparing an arbitration claim against Russian state gas company Gazprom for suspending gas supplies in April 2022 after Bulgaria refused to pay in Russian rubles, announced the caretaker government’s Energy Minister Rossen Hristov on Tuesday.

Bulgaria and Poland were the first EU member states to suffer Russian gas cuts after they refused to pay in Russian rubles in violation of dollar-denominated contracts.

The announcement of the arbitration case was made a few hours before the government was replaced by a new, regularly elected government supported by the pro-European parties.

Read more: Bulgarian parliament elects pro-EU government that can help Ukraine

In the last ten months, the caretaker government of President Rumen Radev has shown public passivity on the issue of seeking compensation for the suspension of Russian gas supplies, which has caused severe damage to the Bulgarian economy and a rise in inflation.

Radev’s government initially tried to negotiate the restoration of the supply.

Because of the pro-Western profile of the new government, there are expectations that it will show much greater activity and bring Bulgaria’s financial claims to Gazprom to the arbitration court.

Hristov said he tried to renew contacts with Gazprom and asked for gas supplies to be restored, but the Russian company refused to give a clear answer.

In response to EURACTIV in March 2023, the administration of Hristov reported that no decision had been made to file an arbitration case against Gazprom, and no steps had been taken to prepare an arbitration claim.

On Wednesday, international arbitration lawyer Metodi Baikushev criticised the Bulgarian government for its passivity towards Gazprom and warned that Russia could use the case of a hybrid operation to destabilise the new pro-Western government.

“I am worried that one of the attacks against the new government may come from Gazprom Export, with them (first) making a claim against Bulgaria. It is obvious that the Russian Federation has no problem conducting this as a hybrid operation, regardless of will lose such a case”, commented lawyer Baikushev for the online talk show of the Bulgarian journalist Veselin Dremdzhiev.

Russia could use the court case as a hybrid attack on Bulgaria because it could be sold by pro-Russian voices as a risk posed by pro-Western politicians who have refused to pay for Putin’s gas in rubles.

A similar pro-Russian narrative was used immediately by pro-Russian journalists, experts and political leaders after the suspension supplies, who portrayed Bulgaria as completely dependent on the Kremlin’s decision.

Source: Euractiv