Putin’s blackmail plot backfires as EU ‘well prepared’

Putin ‘playing economic war extremely well’ says Knight

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Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas giant, said on Friday the company will not restart gas flows through the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline, despite it being scheduled to come back online on Saturday. It had already been shut from Wednesday for three days of planned maintenance, but has blamed the latest squeeze on exports on an oil leak at its Portovaya compressor station.

No timeline for when exports will restart was given, and it came after flows through the pipeline already plummeted to just 20 percent of normal levels from July.

Putin had also gradually lowered gas flows ahead of its invasion of Ukraine, which has persisted throughout the conflict.

While the bloc heavily relies on Russian gas, getting 40 percent of its from Moscow last year, it claims it is “ready” for the latest cut.

EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Saturday: “We are well prepared to resist Russia’s extreme use of the gas weapon.

“We are not afraid of Putin’s decisions, we are asking the Russians to respect contracts, but if they don’t, we are ready to react.”

He added: “Gas storage is currently at about 80 percent, thanks to the diversification of supplies, even if the situation varies from one country to another.”

Germany, which called the earlier supply cut a “political move”, also claims it is prepared for Putin’s slashed deliveries.

This despite it being one of the most dependent nations on Russia’s gas in the entire bloc, which forced it to enter into the second phase of an emergency gas plan in July.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said earlier this week that his country is “much better prepared” to shore up enough gas over winter.

He added: “We can deal quite well with the threats that are coming our way from Russia.”

This also comes as the EU eyes an emergency plan to separate power prices from the surging gas after Putin’s supply cuts sent energy costs skyrocketing.

European energy prices have reached staggering levels over the past year, soaring by nearly 400 percent.

And governments across the EU have repeatedly accused the Kremlin of using energy as blackmail as a response to the western support for Ukraine over Russia’s invasion.

While Russia claims it is infrastructure issues which are responsible for the supply squeezes, Moscow has also accused the West of waging an economic war via its sanctions.

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It claims it is these sanctions which have delayed infrastructure repairs and maintenance, triggering the slashed exports of gas transiting to Europe.

But the EU does have a blueprint to wean itself off Russian energy, which it hands Putin billions for despite the war as he continues to unleash havoc in Ukraine.

Under the REPowerEU strategy, the bloc plans to scupper its remaining energy links by diversifying its gas sources by importing from alternative producers such as countries in the Middle East.

It also planned to fill up its gas storage capacity to 80 percent by November 1, which has already been done in what could be a major blow for Putin.

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