Russia now threatens to cut gas supplies to Moldova, a country on the southwestern border of Ukraine.
As a result, Europe is bracing for potential cuts in its gas supplies from Russia.
On Tuesday, Gazprom, a state-owned Russian gas giant, announced it would halt deliveries to the country on Monday.
They cited claims that Ukraine is holding back some of the gas flowing through its territory.
The company said it would cut gas flows through the Sudzha transit point equal to claims Ukraine is blocking it from reaching Moldova.
Gazprom shared the news through its Telegram account, saying:
“The volume of gas supplied by Gazprom to the GIS Sudzha for transit to Moldova through the territory of Ukraine exceeds the physical volume transmitted at the border of Ukraine with Moldova.”
Despite Russia’s allegations, Ukraine denied withholding gas supplies from its neighbor.
Ukrainian state-owned energy company Naftogaz responded to the claims on Tuesday with a tweet:
“Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing gas. Once again. In short: this is not true.”
The Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine (GTSOU) also issued a statement on the matter.
They said the Russian gas received at the Sudzha entry point for transport to Moldova was routed to exit points along their shared border.
According to the operator, Moldova has initiated a “virtual reverse” of some Russian gas imports to Ukraine.
However, they did not give a reason.
Analysts said the opposite is a joint trade agreement, in which some of the gas destined for one site is diverted to be stored or sold to another buyer.
Olga Bielkova, Director of Government and International Affairs at GTSOU said:
“This is not the first time Russia has resorted to using gas as an instrument of political pressure.”
“It manipulates facts to justify its decision to limit further the volume of gas supplies to European countries.”
Meanwhile, Hennig Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources at Eurasia Group, says that Moldova has traditionally stored some of its gas in Ukraine.
“So the argument that it is being held in Ukraine by Ukraine is moot,” said Gloystein.
Although Moldova is not a member of the European Union, it is applying to join the Union.
Russia supplies the country with over 5 million cubic meters of gas a day, a small fraction of the gas that the Union uses every day for its homes and businesses.
However, the move raises the specter of a further reduction in gas supplies to the European Union via Ukraine.
Russia also sends gas to Europe via the TurkStream pipeline from Turkey to Bulgaria.
Natural gas prices in Europe rose 4% on Wednesday.
However, at $128 per megawatt-hour, gas remains 64% below record highs at the start of 2022.
If Russia stops exporting via Ukraine, Europe will lose more than 4 billion cubic meters of gas between December and March.
Even if that happens, Europe probably has the resources to endure in the short term.