ATHENS – While the European Union said Russia’s turning off the gas for Poland and Bulgaria was “blackmail” retaliation for sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis moved to deal with more potential fallout.
He called an emergency meeting of his Cabinet as Greece – like the EU – gets up to 40 percent of its energy from Russia and he was among the first to show support for Ukraine and send arms.
Relations with Russia have worsened as well after Greece expelled a dozen Russian diplomats and Moscow warned that it wouldn’t go unanswered as the stakes were growing higher rapidly.
Environment and Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas was to give a briefing on what position Greece is in with worry that Russia would extend the shut-offs to countries who won’t pay in roubles.
Mitsotakis held a telephone call with his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov offering aid, said Reuters, as the gas cut-off came after Greece said it wanted to buy nuclear energy from its neighbor.
“The prime minister said that Greece will help Bulgaria to deal with the new situation caused by the Russian decisions on energy,” Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement, without providing further details.
A Greek source close to the matter told Reuters that Greece could help Sofia by reversing the flow of the TurkStream pipeline, a mechanism that has been used before. The pipeline brings in Russian gas to Greece via the Black Sea, Turkey and Bulgaria.
Mitsotakis said a long delayed gas link, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), should be ready by June, Petkov said.
“He (Mitsotakis also confirmed joint actions for diversification through liquefied natural gas,” Petkov added.
Greece’s next payment to Gazprom is due in May under a contract that expires in 2026 but Mitsotakis hasn’t said if it will comply with Russia’s roubles payment demand but that plans are being worked out if the gas is shut off.
Under a contingency plan, Greece has said it could get additional liquefied and pipeline gas from Azerbaijan and switch four gas-fired electricity plants to diesel. It will also ramp up coal mining in the next two years as a temporary measure although environmentalist groups criticized returning to that fuel to produce electricity even though energy prices are soaring.