Ukraine: Ukraine has accused Moscow of waging a “gas war” against Europe and cutting off supplies to spread “terror” to the people.
Russian energy firm Gazprom announced that it is reducing gas flow again in Germany to allow work on the turbines on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was “gas blackmail” against Europe.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline pumps gas from Russia to Germany and has been running below capacity for weeks.
Earlier this month, Russia’s most extensive European pipeline was completely shut down for a 10-day maintenance break, sparking fears in Europe that shipments would not resume.
Shipments resumed five days ago – though still at low capacity. But on Monday, Gazprom announced it would cut its gas supply again.
This time, it said it needed to cut gas supply to around half of current levels to carry out maintenance work. The German government, however, said there was no technical reason to limit the supply.
“The gas blackmail of Europe, which only gets worse every month, is needed by a terrorist state to make the life of every European worse,” said Mr Zelensky in his nightly address.
He said it was deliberately intended to make it difficult for Europe to prepare for winter without caring for the poverty people may suffer in the colder months.
The European Union, which received 40% of its gas from Russia last year, has also accused Russia of using energy as a weapon.
The latest flow reduction puts pressure on EU countries to further reduce their reliance on Russian gas and will likely make it difficult for them to refill their gas supplies before winter.
European energy ministers are meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, hoping to sign off on a joint response to the crisis.
Last week, the European Commission proposed asking member states to cut gas consumption by 15% over the next seven months. The target will be voluntary, but under the proposals, the Commission may decide to make it mandatory in case of an emergency.
Although some countries have opposed the plan, the pressure on EU capitals to reach an agreement remains high. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has previously said the prospect of Russia completely shutting down gas supplies to the EU was a “probable scenario”.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, wholesale gas prices have already risen, with an impact on consumer energy bills around the world.
The Kremlin blames the price hike on Western sanctions, insists it is a reliable energy partner and is not responsible for recent gas supply disruptions. Meanwhile, Ukraine still hopes that a landmark deal brokered by the UN last week could mean grain exports resume from its Black Sea ports “within days.”
“If the sides guarantee security, the agreement will work. If they do not, it will not work,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.
In his nightly address, President Zelensky also said he was confident that grain exports from Ukraine would start again this week.
His comments came after fears the deal could fall apart after Russia targeted Ukraine’s main port of Odesa with missiles on Saturday. As many as 20 million tonnes of grain are trapped in Ukraine, unable to leave because the Russian navy controls most of the Black Sea.