Russia has blamed Western sanctions for its decision to curb gas supplies to Europe in a move Germany said was politically motivated.
azprom, Moscow’s state-backed energy giant, announced yesterday it would slash gas deliveries through a key European pipeline by 20pc, a day after announcing a 40pc cut to the same supply line.
Russia claims it is because the sanctions make it impossible to return a turbine in Canada for maintenance.
In a statement on Tuesday, the firm said it had been forced to partially suspend operations at the Portovaya compressor station on the Russian Baltic Sea coast.
It added that only three gas compressor units at the site could be switched on because of the missing part, which was shipped to Montreal for scheduled maintenance earlier this year. The work was being carried out by German-headquartered Siemens Energy, which claimed sanctions prevented it from returning the turbine.
“Due to the sanctions imposed by Canada, it is currently impossible for Siemens Energy to deliver overhauled gas turbines to the customer,” it said. “We have informed the Canadian and German governments and are working on a viable solution.”
Germany has appealed to Canada to review its sanctions on Moscow to review whether it is possible for Siemens Energy to release the turbine.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s economic minister, said the EU’s sanctions regime would have allowed for the part to have been sent back to Russia. But he said Gazprom’s decision to cut deliveries was not linked to the maintenance, which was not due to take place until the autumn.
“So I also have the impression that what happened is a political decision, and not a decision that is technically justifiable,” Mr Habeck said.
“The Russian side’s argument is simply a pretext. It is obviously a strategy to unsettle and drive up prices.”
Gazprom announced on Twitter yesterday that deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would be cut again from today, bringing the overall reduction through the undersea pipeline to 60pc.
In a separate statement, Gazprom said it had informed Italian gas giant Eni that it would have to reduce deliveries by a different pipeline by 15pc.
The drop in shipments of gas used to power industry and generate electricity would amount to some 16 billion cubic meters by the end of the year, or around 10pc of total EU gas imports from Russia, according to Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert at the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels.
The reduced flows to two of Europe’s biggest importers of Russian natural gas follow Russia’s previous halting of gas supplies to Bulgaria, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Europe is working to reduce its dependence on Russian energy as the war worsens rising oil and gas prices that are fuelling record inflation. Gas demand has fallen after the end of the winter heating season, but European utilities are racing to refill storage ahead of next winter.
While gas storage is refilling well, the cut-offs and reductions come on top of an explosion at a liquefied natural gas terminal in Texas whose exports were largely going to Europe, adding another squeeze to the tight natural gas market, energy expert Mr Tagliapietra said. He urged Europe “not to be complacent and urgently scale up coordination” so the continent is “prepared for a possibly difficult winter ahead”.
“If you have the feeling that all your homework is done and everything is going well, you’re wrong,” Mr Habeck said. “It isn’t over yet. It may only just be beginning.”
Mr Tagliapietra said the Kremlin was pursuing several goals in order to undermine European unity and backing for sanctions against Russia.
One was short-term market manipulation to drive up gas prices, creating more stress on Europe and more revenue for Russia. Another goal, after the cut-offs to smaller countries, “is to remind the big countries that the gas is not to be taken for granted”.
“Russia never acts on a general level. It is always targeting individual countries, one by one, always to play this divide and rule strategy from the very beginning,” Mr Tagliapietra. “This is a strategic game, this is not random.”
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