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Gazprom slashes Nord Stream gas deliveries to Europe

By AFP - Jul 27,2022 - Last updated at Jul 27,2022

BERLIN — Russian energy giant Gazprom drastically cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 per cent of its capacity, German authorities said.

The Russian state-run company had announced on Monday that it would choke supply to 33 million cubic metres a day — half the amount it has been delivering since service resumed last week after 10 days of maintenance work.

EU states have accused Russia of squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Gazprom cited the halted operation of one of the last two operating turbines for the pipeline due to the "technical condition of the engine".

The German economy ministry dismissed the explanation, saying there was "no technical reason for a reduction of deliveries". Government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann spoke on Wednesday of a "power play" by Moscow.

Klaus Mueller, head of Germany's energy regulator, said gas flows had dropped to 20 per cent of the pipeline's capacity on Wednesday from 40 per cent.

"We'll see today if it stays that way," he said in a statement.

In parallel, Italian energy major Eni said Gazprom had informed the group it would only deliver "approximately 27 million cubic metres" on Wednesday, down from around 34 million cubic metres in recent days.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed EU sanctions for the limited supply.

"Technical pumping capacities are down, more restricted. Why? Because the process of maintaining technical devices is made extremely difficult by the sanctions adopted by Europe," Peskov said. 

"Gazprom was and remains a reliable guarantor of its obligations... but it can't guarantee the pumping of gas if the imported devices cannot be maintained because of European sanctions."

Mueller praised consumers and industry for voluntarily reducing energy use, saying that even correcting for warmer summer temperatures, recent consumption had been cut between 5 and 7 per cent.

He said this would allow Germany to add to its gas reserves, which currently stand at about 65 per cent of capacity. Economy Minister Robert Habeck outlined targets last week for stocks to reach 95 per cent by November 1 ahead of the cold German winter.

"In the autumn, the situation will change and gas use will rise," Mueller said, noting the country's strong reliance on gas for its heating.

"Germany has got to use less gas," he said, calling energy part of Russian "foreign policy and war strategy". 

The European Union on Tuesday agreed a plan to reduce gas consumption in solidarity with Germany, Europe's top economy. Berlin takes a major share of the 40 per cent of EU gas imports that came from Russia last year.

"It is true that Germany, with its dependence on Russian gas, has made a strategic mistake but our government is working... to correct this," Habeck said on Tuesday. 

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung called the bloc's plan a "lesson in humility for the EU's would-be schoolmaster", Germany. 

"Suddenly we are not the strong ones and are dependent on others' help," it said. 

The Rheinische Post newspaper said the EU agreement was welcome, but noted that if President Vladimir Putin "turns off the taps completely, then 15 per cent will start looking like a drop in the ocean".

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