Russia's Gazprom cuts off gas deliveries to neighbour Latvia

Baltic country says move by state-owned exporter will have little effect on its energy supplies

Latvia said its gas supplies would be little affected by Gazprom's announcement on Saturday. AP
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Latvia on Saturday became the latest European country to have its gas deliveries switched off by Russia, in a move the Baltic country said would have little impact on its supplies.

Russian exporter Gazprom said in a brief statement that supplies ordered by Latvia for July had been halted due to a breach "of the conditions established".

It did not say what this meant, but Gazprom has blocked deliveries to other countries such as Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands for refusing the Kremlin's demand to pay for gas in Russian roubles.

Germany has also accused Gazprom of reducing supplies for spurious reasons, amid concern over how Europe will navigate the coming winter with minimal or no Russian gas.

Edijs Saicans, a deputy state secretary at the Latvian Economy Ministry, said Gazprom's move on Saturday would have little effect given that Latvia has already decided to ban Russian gas imports starting from January.

"We do not see any major impacts from such a move," Mr Saicans said.

Russia's Baltic neighbours, concerned about their own geographic vulnerability after the invasion of Ukraine, have led calls for the EU to hurry up and stop buying energy from Moscow.

The announcement came a day after Latvian energy company Latvijas Gaze said it was buying gas from Russia, although not from Gazprom. It said it was paying in euros rather than the roubles.

The European Commission — which has given a warning that handing over roubles would breach EU sanctions on Moscow — has urged companies to keep paying in the currency agreed in their contracts with Gazprom. Most are in euros or dollars.

Latvia is experiencing a summer heatwave but Europe is concerned over how it will navigate winter. EPA

State-owned Gazprom said this week that it was choking supply through the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany to 33 million cubic metres a day, half the previous amount and only 20 per cent of the route's capacity.

The EU agreed a partial ban on Russian oil in May, but no sanctions have been introduced on gas because some member states are especially reliant on that fossil fuel.

EU countries agreed on Tuesday to an emergency regulation to curb their gas use by 15 per cent this winter, preparing for a period of uncertain supplies from Russia.

The cuts are initially voluntary but could become mandatory if an EU-wide gas alert is declared, although some countries would be exempt and member states have taken the power to invoke that procedure away from the commission.

Updated: July 30, 2022, 3:24 PM