KHARKIV: Flows of Russian gas to Europe through a transit point in Ukraine dried up on Wednesday (May 11), while Kyiv reported battlefield gains over invading Russian forces that could signal a shift in the war’s momentum.
Ukraine has remained a major route for Russian gas to Europe even since the Feb 24 invasion, which President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation”.
Mounting Western sanctions are seeking to ban or phase out the use of Russian energy, a key source of funds for Putin’s war effort and a vulnerability for Europe, especially Germany.
Blaming the presence of occupying forces for the suspension, Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator said on Tuesday it would redirect gas from the Sokhranivka transit point, which is in an area occupied by Russian forces, to another in a Ukraine-controlled area.
Requests for Russian gas transit for May 11 via Sokhranivka fell to zero, data from the operator showed early on Wednesday.
Since Russia was forced to abandon an assault on the capital Kyiv at the end of March, its main force has been trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbas region, using Izyum near Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, in the northeast, as a base.
But Ukrainian troops have mostly held out against assaults, and in recent days recaptured four settlements north of Kharkiv, Tetiana Apatchenko, a press officer with the main Ukrainian force in the area, said on Tuesday.
Russian forces were trying to prevent Ukrainian troops from moving further towards the border in the Kharkiv region and trying to fully capture the town of Rubizhne, Ukraine’s general staff said early on Wednesday.
Across the border, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said on his Telegram channel that a “yellow”, second-highest, security alert would be maintained there until May 25. The area has come under sporadic attack from Ukrainian forces.
A Ukrainian counterattack near Kharkiv could signal a new phase of the conflict, making with supply lines into Russia potentially vulnerable.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian successes were gradually pushing Russian forces out of Kharkiv, which has been under bombardment since the war began.
“But I also want to urge all our people … not to spread excessive emotions. We should not create an atmosphere of excessive moral pressure, where victories are expected weekly and even daily,” he said in a video address.