Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator yesterday stopped Russian shipments through a key hub in the east of the country, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Kyiv’s military had made small gains, pushing Russian forces out of four villages near Kharkiv.
The pipeline operator said that Russian shipments through its Novopskov hub, in an area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, would be cut from yesterday.
It said the hub handles about one-third of Russian gas passing through Ukraine to western Europe.
Russia’s state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom put the figure at about one-quarter.
The move marks the first time natural gas supply has been affected by the war, which began in February.
It might force Russia to shift flows of its gas through territory controlled by Ukraine to reach its clients in Europe.
Gazprom initially said that it could not, although preliminary flow data suggested higher rates moving through a second station in Ukrainian-controlled territory.
The operator said it was stopping the flow because of interference from “occupying forces,” including the apparent siphoning of gas.
Russia could reroute shipments through Sudzha, a main hub in a northern part of the country controlled by Ukraine, it said.
However, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that would be “technologically impossible” and questioned the reason given for the stoppage.
Zelenskiy on Tuesday said that the military was gradually pushing Russian troops away from Kharkiv, while Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba voiced what appeared to be increasing confidence — and expanded goals — suggesting that Ukraine could go beyond just forcing Russia back to areas it held before the invasion began 11 weeks ago.
Kuleba told the Financial Times that Kyiv initially believed victory would be the withdrawal of Russian troops to positions they occupied before the Feb. 24 invasion.
However, the focus shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas after Russian forces failed to take Kyiv early in the war.
“Now if we are strong enough on the military front, and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” Kuleba said.
Kuleba’s statement seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities.
Russian forces have made advances in the Donbas and control more of it than they did before the war began.
However, it highlights how Ukraine has stymied a larger, better-armed Russian military, surprising many who had anticipated a much quicker end to the conflict.
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