The crisis over Russian oil supplies has escalated into a full-scale confrontation with Europe as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, condemned Moscow’s decision to turn off the tap as “unacceptable”.

She said Russia’s tactics were destroying its credibility as a reliable energy partner. The comments came after Russia halted supplies to several countries, including Poland, after a dispute with Belarus over exports through the Druzhba pipeline.

Moscow, which said it was forced to act because Belarus was illegally siphoning off oil, has threatened to throttle oil production in an effort to pile more pressure on the government in Minsk.

Merkel’s condemnation is a significant shift in rhetoric from Germany which has worked hard to build its energy partnership with Russia. Ms Merkel said it was unacceptable for Russia to sever supplies without warning and she warned that it “destroys trust and erodes trust for the future”.