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Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow halts gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria

The move marked an escalation of the Kremlin’s standoff with Europe and NATO and its efforts to weaken the resolve of those supporting Ukraine’s defensive stand.

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Russia has cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, both members of the European Union and NATO, intensifying its confrontation with Ukraine's allies in a move the continent's leaders labeled “gas blackmail.”

Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom said early Wednesday it had suspended gas supplies to the two countries after they refused to pay for the shipments in rubles.

The move marked an escalation of the Kremlin's efforts to weaken the resolve of those supporting Ukraine's defensive stand with sanctions and military support. Europe relies heavily on Russian energy supplies, and the halt ratcheted up the economic stakes in a standoff that increasingly resembles the Cold War.

In a surprise deal, Russia on Wednesday released former Marine Trevor Reed in a prisoner exchange with the U.S., a diplomatic maneuver made all the more extraordinary because the war with Russia has driven relations to their lowest point in decades.

President Joe Biden is expected to ask Congress to fund a new supplemental aid package for Ukraine on Thursday morning. The extra funding is intended to last for the next five months.

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Explosions boom in Russian-occupied city of Kherson

KYIV, Ukraine — In the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, a series of explosions boomed near the television tower late Wednesday and at least temporarily knocked Russian channels off the air, Ukrainian and Russian news organizations reported.

The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said missiles and rockets were fired at the city from the direction of the Ukrainian forces to the northwest. NBC News has not independently verified the allegation.

Kherson has been occupied by Russian forces since early in the war.

Ukrayinska Pravda, an online newspaper, said the strikes set off a fire and knocked Russian television channels off the air.

RIA Novosti said the broadcast later resumed. It said Russian channels began broadcasting from Kherson last week.

Russia has been determined to strengthen its control over the city, but residents have continued to come out onto the streets to protest the occupation.

Canadian lawmakers vote unanimously to label Russia’s acts in Ukraine as ‘genocide’

Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday to call Russia’s attacks in Ukraine a “genocide," with members of parliament saying there was “ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity” being committed by Moscow.

The Canadian House of Commons’ motion said war crimes by Russia include mass atrocities, systematic instances of willful killing of Ukrainian civilians, the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, torture, physical harm, mental harm, and rape.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “absolutely right” for more and more people to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, supporting an accusation made by President Joe Biden a day earlier.

Biden had said earlier in April that the Ukraine invasion amounted to genocide but had added that lawyers internationally would have to decide whether or not the invasion met the criteria for genocide.

Russia, which denies the genocide charges, calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation." Moscow accuses Ukraine of the genocide of Russian-speaking people, a charge that Ukraine dismisses as nonsense. 

Germany bought most Russian energy during first months of Ukraine war, study finds

BERLIN — An independent research group says Germany was the biggest buyer of Russian energy during the first two months of the war in Ukraine.

A study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculates that Russia earned $66.5 billion from fossil fuel exports since Russian troops attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Using data on ship movements, real-time tracking of gas flows through pipelines and estimates based on historical monthly trade, the researchers reckon Germany paid Russia about 9.1 billion euros for fossil fuel deliveries in the first two months of the war.

The German government said it can’t comment on estimates, and it declined to provide any figures of its own.

Biden set to address support for Ukraine on Thursday

President Joe Biden is expected to deliver remarks Thursday “on support for Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia’s brutal war,” according to a White House schedule released Wednesday.

The details of the remarks are not laid out.

Administration officials have said the White House is preparing to send a funding request to Congress for additional aid for Ukraine.

The officials said the aid request, which is likely to be designed to last Ukraine for the next five months, could be sent to Congress as soon as Thursday. The officials described the amount of the request as “massive.”

Biden last week announced $1.3 billion more in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, including $800 million in weapons, including artillery. Biden said then that additional funding would soon be needed from Congress.

Parents of American released by Russia in prisoner exchange say son’s life saved

The parents of a Texas man imprisoned in Russia for almost three years before he was freed in an exchange Wednesday thanked President Joe Biden and their state’s lawmakers for their son’s freedom.

“We believe that he probably saved our son’s life,” Joey Reed said of Biden in Texas on Wednesday afternoon, hours after Russian authorities released their son, Trevor Reed.

Trevor Reed, a former Marine sentenced to nine years in prison on claims he’d assaulted an officer, was freed after Biden commuted the sentence of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian serving a 20-year U.S. prison sentence on a drug trafficking conviction. Reed said he was innocent, and U.S. officials said he had been unjustly detained.

The Reeds had been advocating for their son’s release and talking to State Department and other officials before Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, and they worried that the conflict would disrupt those efforts.

“Then they said, in the next week, ‘OK, we’re speaking again,’” Paula Reed said.

They also thanked Texas Republicans Rep. August Pfluger and Sen. John Cornyn, who advocated for their son, and called it a bipartisan effort. They hope other Americans held in Russia and other countries are freed.

U.K. diplomat calls on allies to ‘double down,’ send Ukraine tanks, jets

LONDON — Britain’s top diplomat called Wednesday for Western allies to send tanks, warplanes and other heavy weapons to Ukraine, saying fears of escalating the war were misplaced and “inaction would be the greatest provocation.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said “this is a time for courage, not caution” among countries helping Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion.

“Heavy weapons, tanks, airplanes — digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this,” Truss said in an annual foreign policy speech at Mansion House, the residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

NATO countries have supplied Ukraine with military weapons and gear, including missiles and armored vehicles. But they have been reluctant to send fighter planes — despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — for fear of escalation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already accused NATO of effectively waging a proxy war against Russia.

Western officials deny that, saying the conflict is between Russia and Ukraine because of Russia’s illegal invasion of its neighbor.

Britain has sent $565 million in military aid to Ukraine, including thousands of missiles. But despite Truss’s call for jets, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said there were “no plans” for the U.K. to send planes. He did not rule out Britain’s sending planes to another country, such as Poland, that would then give its own jets to Ukraine, but he said there were “no specific plans” to do so.

Russian hackers creating chaos in Ukraine, Microsoft says

BOSTON — Cyberattacks by state-backed Russian hackers have destroyed data across dozens of organizations in Ukraine and produced “a chaotic information environment,” Microsoft said in a report released Wednesday.

Nearly half the destructive attacks were against critical infrastructure, many times simultaneous to physical attacks, the report says.

A top Ukrainian cybersecurity official, Victor Zhora, told reporters in a news briefing Wednesday that cyberattacks on telecommunications have sometimes coincided with artillery and other physical attacks.

Microsoft assessed that Russia-aligned threat groups were “pre-positioning for the conflict as early as March 2021,” hacking into networks to obtain footholds they could later use to collect “strategic and battlefield intelligence or to facilitate future destructive attacks.”

During the war, Russia’s cyberattacks “have at times not only degraded the functions of the targeted organizations but sought to disrupt citizens’ access to reliable information and critical life services, and to shake confidence in the country’s leadership,” the company’s Digital Security Unit says in the 20-page report.

Kremlin cyber operations “have had an impact in terms of technical disruption of services and causing a chaotic information environment, but Microsoft is not able to evaluate their broader strategic impact,” the report says.

White House to seek ‘massive’ Ukraine aid package, officials say

The White House is preparing to send a new funding request to Congress as soon as Thursday for additional Ukraine aid that’s likely to be designed to last for the next five months, administration officials said.

The officials would not provide a specific dollar amount, describing the request only as “massive.” Some details were still not finalized, the officials said.

The amount is intended to fund U.S. military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine through the end of the current federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, the officials said.

Read the full story here.

Canada sanctions more than 200 loyal to Putin

OTTAWA, Ontario — The Canadian government said Wednesday that it has imposed sanctions on more than 200 people who are loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Russian forces have been backing separatist rebels in the Donbas area for eight years following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

The Canadian sanctions are focused on the renewed Russian attempt to annex areas of the Donbas by targeting people attempting to support the next phase of the two-month-old Russian war on Ukraine.

“Canada will not stand idly by and watch President Putin and his accomplices attempt to redraw the borders of Ukraine with impunity,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement. “International law must be respected.”

Global Affairs Canada, the governmental department that manages the country’s diplomatic relations, said the new measures target 11 senior officials and 192 other members of the People’s Councils of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk for supporting Putin’s attack on the area.

Biden to meet with Italian prime minister about Ukraine

ROME — The prime minister's office said Premier Mario Draghi will meet President Joe Biden in Washington on May 10.

Draghi’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Ukraine will be at the center of discussions, including coordinated measures “to support the Ukrainian population and to counter Russia’s unjustified aggression.”

The leaders will also discuss energy security. Italy is among the European countries that get large proportions of their natural gas from Russia. Draghi and his ministers have been working to get alternative sources.

Biden to tour facility making weapons for war

WASHINGTON — The White House said President Joe Biden will tour a Lockheed Martin facility that makes weapons systems, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, that the administration is providing to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s two-month-old invasion.

Biden plans to visit the facility in Alabama on May 3.

A Javelin is a long-range guided anti-tank missile that can be carried by one person. The U.S. says it has provided several thousand of the systems to Ukraine.

Russia withdraws from U.N. tourism organization

MADRID — Russia announced Wednesday it was withdrawing from the United Nations World Tourism Organization just hours before the body’s assembly voted to suspend the country’s membership over the invasion of Ukraine, officials said.

The organization's secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili, made the announcement on his official Twitter account. He said it was the first U.N. body to address Russia’s membership.

The organization went ahead and approved the suspension at a special meeting Wednesday in Madrid, where it has its headquarters.

“Putin’s military offensive is an attack on the founding principles of the United Nations and on the values that tourism represents, such as peace, prosperity and universal respect and the observance of human rights,” Spanish Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said in a statement following the decision.

The resolution included a clause that said the suspension could be reversed if a change in the politics of the Russian Federation were noted.

Spain was one of 22 European countries that had promoted the motion.

Mariupol officials claim third mass grave discovered near city

Mariupol city officials say that they have discovered evidence of a third mass grave in and around the besieged southern Ukrainian city. 

Mariupol City Council officials said in a statement posted on their Telegram channel that the discovery was made using satellite imagery captured by the U.S. company Planet Labs. It was first reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“The satellite recorded the excavated trenches on the territory of the Staryi Krym cemetery. They appeared on March 24, after the village was occupied by the Russians,” officials said, adding that they estimated that the burial site grew from 200 feet on March 24 to 650 feet on April 24. 

Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko claimed in the statement that Russian forces have enlisted local residents to help with burials in exchange for supplies. “They told us that you need to work hours to give you food and water,” he said. NBC News could not independently verify the claims.

Officials in the city have said satellite images released last Thursday were evidence of a mass grave in the village of Manhush, west of Mariupol. 

What appeared to be another mass grave was discovered Friday in the village of Vynohradne, east of Mariupol, said Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor.

In a statement, Maxar, a U.S. government contractor, said the images, taken in Manhush from mid-March through mid-April, show that more than 200 new graves began to appear toward the end of March and expanded in April.

E.U. proposes lifting duties on Ukraine imports for one year

The European Union proposed Wednesday to suspend duties on imports from Ukraine for a year, calling it an “unprecedented gesture of support.”

The move was made to help boost Ukraine’s economy and its exports to the trading bloc of 27 countries after Russia’s invasion. The proposal must be agreed to by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it takes effect.

“This shows the European Union’s unwavering commitment to helping Ukraine in its hour of need,” E.U. Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis wrote on Twitter.

Trade between the bloc and Ukraine was worth around $54.8 million last year, according to the E.U.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal confirmed the effort and said Ukraine has “thwarted the enemy’s plans for a complete blockade of our economy.”

Graphic: The 10 European countries most reliant on foreign oil and natural gas

Russian oil makes up 8 percent of U.S. oil imports. In most European countries, that number is much higher. About half import most of their oil, and of that imported oil, an average of 20 percent comes from Russia.

Bulgaria is not among the 10 European countries most reliant on foreign oil.

Kremlin denies gas blackmail after cutting off Poland and Bulgaria

Russia denied that it was using its gas supplies to blackmail European countries after accusations by European leaders.

“This is not blackmail," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday. "Russia has been and remains a reliable supplier of energy resources to its consumers. And Russia has been and remains committed to its obligations under the contracts.”

Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin said that gas must be paid for in rubles and that countries could be cut off if they refused.

"This necessity was dictated by the fact that, as it is known, a fairly significant amount of our reserves was blocked, or speaking in Russian, stolen," said Peskov. 

"All these new conditions were brought to the attention of buyers in advance."

Gas supply to countries that have been cut off would resume if their payment conditions were met, he said. He also confirmed that Gazprom could suspend deliveries to other countries in May if they don’t pay in the Russian currency.

Biden confirms U.S. marine release, says negotiations 'required difficult decisions'

President Joe Biden has confirmed that former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed has been released from Russian detention.

“I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence. And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden thanked Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Sullivan and many others across the U.S. government “to ensure that Trevor came home safely.”

“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” Biden said. “His safe return is a testament to the priority my Administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad. We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends.”

Russia releases U.S. Marine vet Trevor Reed as part of prisoner exchange

Russia has released former Texas Marine Trevor Reed in a prisoner exchange with the United States, according to his family.

“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is safely on his way back to the United States,” Joey, Paula, and Taylor Reed said in a statement.

Russia and the U.S. carried out the surprise exchange on Wednesday, trading Reed, who was jailed in Moscow, for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, according to Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova.

Police officers escort Trevor Reed into a courtroom prior to a hearing in Moscow on March 11, 2020.Alexander Nemenov / AFP via Getty Images file

Read the full story here.

Moscow sanctions 287 British lawmakers, banning them from Russia

Russia on Wednesday sanctioned 287 British lawmakers, banning them from entering the country, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The members of Parliament came from both the ruling Conservative Party as well as the opposition Labour Party, and included Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle, but not the prime minister or many other senior government figures.

According to the statement, the lawmakers named were those that “took the most active part in the establishment of anti-Russian sanctions instruments in London.”

Many of the lawmakers expressed pride in being listed, with some calling it a "badge of honor."

The move was made “on the basis of reciprocity,” and was likely to be followed by further measures given the U.K.’s “consistent strengthening of anti-Russian sanctions,” the ministry said.

Railway bridge in Odesa collapses after multiple rocket strikes, Ukraine says

A railway bridge in the Odesa region of Ukraine collapsed on Wednesday after it was hit by multiple rocket strikes, said local administration spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk.

The head of Ukrainian Railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said Tuesday that the railway bridge across the Dniester Estuary sustained damage from a rocket strike on Tuesday afternoon.

While the bridge held up for a few hours, it collapsed from a second rocket strike which occurred on Wednesday morning, Bratchuk said.

There were no injuries, Kamyshin said Wednesday.

U.S. embassy in Kyiv says operations to resume "as soon as possible"

Russian attacks on Mariupol steel plant continue despite Russian denials, Ukrainian official says

Russian air attacks on the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol have continued despite denials from Russian officials that there is fighting there, according to an aide to Mariupol’s mayor.

“No silence, but attempts to storm again and again,” the aide, Petro Andriushchenko, wrote on Telegram. Street fights were also taking place in the area, he said.

According to the British defense ministry, the majority of Russian airstrikes in Mariupol are likely being conducted using unguided free-falling bombs, increasing the risk of civilian casualties.

The steel works has become the last stand for Ukrainians in the port city against Russia’s advance. Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment since the war began in late February, leaving residents trapped with little food, clean water or medical care. 

Bulgaria vows it won't give in to Russian gas 'racket'

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov called the suspension of gas deliveries blackmail and said it was “a gross violation of their contract.”

“We will not succumb to such a racket,” he added.

The Kremlin helped make Dmytro Firtash rich. Now, he’s denouncing Putin.

A Ukrainian oligarch who made his fortune with help from the Kremlin is now denouncing Vladimir Putin, even as he fights extradition to the U.S. on corruption charges.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News while under house arrest in Austria, billionaire Dmytro Firtash said the Russian president cannot win in Ukraine.

If he could, Firtash said, he would tell Putin: “It’s time to stop. There will be no victory."

Firtash, who became rich selling Russian natural gas to Ukraine with the help of powerful Russian interests, said: "The longer this war takes, the worse it will be for the Russian people. Not just for the Ukrainian people.”

Read the full story here.

'Karma is a cruel thing,' Ukrainian presidential adviser says after fire at Russian armory

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said that “karma is a cruel thing,” after a fire at an armory in Belgorod, Russia, and reports of drones in two other areas near the border with Ukraine.

In a post on Telegram, Podolyak mentioned bases providing fuel to the Russian army in Belgorod, as well as in Kursk and Voronezh near Ukraine that increasingly “burn and ammunition depots explode.”

“If you [Russians] decide to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively crush peaceful people with tanks, and use warehouses in your regions to ensure the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid,” he wrote in a post on Telegram.

Earlier this month, Russia accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province. A massive fire also broke out this week at a fuel depot in nearby Bryansk. Ukraine didn’t confirm responsibility for the reported incidents on Russian territory.

Russian intelligence said Wednesday that it arrested two Russian citizens for acts of sabotage in the Belgorod region.

Russia captures eastern villages, Ukraine says

Russia has captured several villages and stepped up its ground assault in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian armed forces said Wednesday.

“In the Donetsk direction, Russian enemy units are conducting active operations along almost the entire line of contact,” it said in an operational update published on Facebook.

The village of Zarichne in Donetsk is under Russian control, it said, with its forces focused on gaining full control of Popasna and Rubizhne.

Russia also transferred two battalion tactical groups from Belgorod to the city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region, it said, near where it took control of Zavody and parts of the village of Velyka Komyshuvakha.

Heads roll as Soviet-era ‘friendship’ monument dismantled in Kyiv

Chinese drone maker suspends sales in Russia, Ukraine

Chinese drone maker DJI says it is temporarily suspending all sales in Russia and Ukraine to make sure that its devices are not being used in combat or for military purposes.

In a statement late Tuesday, DJI said that it was pausing sales “in light of current hostilities.”

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News, but told the news agency Reuters that it was suspending sales “to help ensure no-one uses our drones in combat.”

It was not clear if DJI had any information that its drones have been used for military purposes. The company, headquartered in Shenzhen, is the biggest maker of consumer and commercial drones in the world.

Russian forces in Ukraine's east slowly advancing, according to Institute for the Study of War report

Russian forces in Ukraine’s east are “making better progress than any other Russian advances in this phase of the war,” according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.

In the Kharkiv region, troops are moving southwest from Izyum and also look like they may attempt to encircle the city of Rubizhne, located between Kharkiv and Luhansk.

“The Russian advances even in this area are proceeding methodically rather than rapidly,” said the report, released Monday evening. “It is not clear how far they will be able to drive or whether they will be able to encircle Ukrainian forces in large numbers.”

The report also warned that Russia may attempt to “destabilize” Moldova by recognizing the breakaway Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) in Transnistria.

“The PMR could then ask for additional Russian protection, and Putin could attempt to send some additional forces or capabilities to Transnistria. Any such activities would greatly raise tensions and fears in Moldova and neighboring Romania, putting additional pressure on NATO,” the report said.

Russia says it struck a batch of Western weapons in Ukraine

The Russian military on Wednesday said it had struck a batch of Western weapons delivered to Ukraine.

Sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles hit the weapons stored on the grounds of an aluminum plant in Zaporizhzhia, containing American and European equipment, Russian defense ministry spokesman Major Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday.

Konashenkov said Russian warplanes also struck 59 Ukrainian targets, including areas of concentrations of troops and equipment, with Russian artillery hitting 573 Ukrainian targets.

Polish prime minister says country won't be bullied by Russia's 'gas blackmail'

Poland’s prime minister lashed out at Russia for trying to “blackmail” his country with an abrupt cutoff of gas supplies.

Speaking to the Polish Parliament, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed that Poland would not be cowed by the gas cutoff. He said Poland was safe thanks to years of efforts aimed at securing gas from other countries.

He said he believed the move was revenge for new sanctions that Warsaw imposed this week against Russia, targeting 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom. Hours later, Poland said, it had received notice that Gazprom was cutting off supplies to Poland for failing to comply with new demands to pay in Russian rubles.

Lawmakers stood and applauded when he said that Russia’s “gas blackmail” would have no effect on his country.

Russia made up some 45 percent of Poland’s overall gas usage until the cutoff. But Poland is far more reliant on coal to heat homes and fuel industry, with gas accounting for only 9 percent of the country’s overall energy mix.

E.U. president calls Russian gas cutoff 'an instrument of blackmail'

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called the cutoff of gas by Russia’s Gazprom “unjustified and unacceptable.”

“The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Russian energy giant said it had “completely suspended” gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria due to the countries’ refusal to settle the payments in rubles. This followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's demand in March for European nations to pay for gas in rubles.

Russia does not control skies, attacks Mariupol with unguided bombs, U.K. says

Russia’s military does not control most of the airspace over Ukraine and the airstrikes it is conducting in Mariupol likely involve unguided free-falling bombs, the U.K.'s defense ministry has said.

“These weapons reduce Russia’s ability to effectively discriminate when conducting strikes, increasing the risk of civilian casualties,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

The statement said the U.K. assesses Ukrainian forces pose a threat to Russian aircraft, but the ministry did not go into greater detail. The United States and the U.K. have announced pledges to send weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, to Ukraine.

Poland and Bulgaria cut off by Russia

Daily life in Warsaw
A billboard reads "Nie Karm Putina" which translates "Do not feed Putin" in Warsaw, Poland on April 25, 2022.Metin Atkas / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

European gas prices spike

European gas prices have spiked by as much as 24 percent following Gazprom’s statement that it was suspending deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria starting Wednesday.

Benchmark Dutch futures traded at one point around 125 euros per megawatt hour.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, called Russia’s decision to cut off natural gas to Bulgaria and Poland the “weaponization of energy supplies," adding that Russia’s decision “makes it clearer than ever that Europe needs to move quickly to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.”

The spike comes even as the weather turns warmer in Europe, lessening the demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses.

Bulgaria says it can meet energy needs for another month

Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov has said that the country can meet the needs of users for at least one month, after it was given a one-day notice by Russia’s Gazprom that its gas supplies would be discontinued.

He said that gas was still flowing as he spoke Wednesday.

“Alternative supplies are available, and Bulgaria hopes that alternative routes and supplies will also be secured at E.U. level,” Nikolov said, referring to a European Union expert meeting due later Wednesday to plan the next steps. Bulgaria gets more than 90 percent of its gas from Russia, and officials have said they were working to find other sources, such as from Azerbaijan.

“Obviously gas is used as a political tool,” he said. “As long as I am minister, Bulgaria will not negotiate under pressure, Bulgaria is not for sale and does not succumb to any trade counterpart.”

Russia halts gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria

Russia's state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom says it has "completely suspended" gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

It said the move was due to the countries' refusal to pay for the shipments in rubles, following President Vladimir Putin's earlier demand that Europe do so.

Europe is heavily reliant on Russian energy and the decision to cut supplies to the two countries, members of the European Union and NATO, will be seen as an effort to ramp up economic pressure on the continent in a bid to deter support for Ukraine's defensive fight.