Economic tensions between Russia and the West are approaching boiling point after the Kremlin deployed arguably its mightiest economic weapon in cutting off the delivery of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, which are both NATO members. Europe, which is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas to heat homes and generate electricity, has struggled to cut this energy dependence since the invasion of Ukraine. Germany said Tuesday that it hopes in the coming days to find an alternative to Russian oil imports.
The United States and the United Nations said Tuesday that they were monitoring reports of explosions in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova. The U.N. urged involved parties to “refrain from any statements or actions that could escalate tensions,” amid fears that Russia’s ambitions could spill over Ukraine’s borders into neighboring Moldova.
Some Western analysts say a successful power grab in Moldova could provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with “a cheap ‘win’” — though others doubt the Kremlin has the capacity while it is also bogged down in eastern Ukraine. The Institute for the Study of War also said Russia has “adopted a sounder pattern of operational movement” in that region, from Izyum to Rubizhne, where it is “making better progress” than its other recent advances.
Meanwhile, the U.N. said that Putin, during a Tuesday meeting with the organization’s Secretary General António Guterres, had agreed “in principle” to allow civilian evacuations from a Mariupol steel plant that is surrounded by Russian troops. Kyiv said that in recent days the Kremlin has inflicted airstrikes on the plant, where Ukrainian fighters are also holed up. Putin on Tuesday repeated a pledge not to attack the plant, though he has made similar assurances in recent weeks.