News ID: 321775
Published: 0250 GMT May 21, 2022

Russia halts gas exports to Finland, takes Mariupol steelworks

Russia halts gas exports to Finland, takes Mariupol steelworks

Russia claimed victory in a months-long battle for Mariupol’s Avostal steel plant, taking it a step nearer to its goal of controlling Ukraine’s Donbas region, and halted gas exports to Finland in an escalation of an energy payment dispute with Western nations.

The last Ukrainian forces holed up in Mariupol’s smashed Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, according to Reuters.

“The territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant ... has been completely liberated,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 2,439 soldiers had surrendered in the past few days, including 531 in the final group.

Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine’s military had told the last defenders at the steelworks they could get out and save their lives.

Russia also launched what appeared to be a major operation to capture the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the southeastern Donbas region and where Russian-backed forces already controlled swathes of territory before the Feb. 24 “special military operation”.

Victory in Mariupol gives Russia complete control of the Sea of Azov and an unbroken stretch of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia raised the stakes in an energy dispute with Western countries.

Russia’s Gazprom halted gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday after it refused to agree to Russian demands to pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles because of Western sanctions imposed over the conflict in Ukraine.

The move comes days after Finland and Sweden decided to apply to join the NATO military alliance, a decision spurred by the Ukraine conflict.

“Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped,” Finnish gas system operator Gasgrid Finland said in a statement on Saturday.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum and Gazprom also confirmed the flows had stopped.



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