Russia's decision to halt gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland is likely to be counterproductive because it demonstrates that dependence on Russia makes countries vulnerable to coercion, Western officials said on Wednesday.

Russia halted gas supplies to the two countries for rejecting its demand to pay in roubles, taking direct aim at European economies in its toughest retaliation so far against international sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the move underlined the reason why it was necessary for the West to reduce its dependency on Russian hydrocarbons.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by William James)