The European Union has accused Russia of using energy as a 'weapon' as it vowed to accelerate energy independence despite deepening concerns over gas supplies to the continent this winter.
Russia's state energy company Gazprom on Friday said the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would remain closed after a reported oil leak in a turbine that needed urgent repairs. The announcement came as G7 leaders agreed to put a price cap on the sale of natural gas coming from Moscow.
Europe’s politicians have been bracing for the prospect of supply cuts for weeks and have steadily built gas reserves. But as winter approaches, Europe’s resolve to keep backing Ukraine against Russia will be tested.
“Use of gas as a weapon will not change the resolve of the EU,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter. “We will accelerate our path towards energy independence.”
EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Saturday that he expects Russia to respect existing energy contracts but said the bloc was "well prepared" if this was not the case.
Mr Gentiloni told reporters: "We are not afraid of (President Vladimir) Putin's decisions. We ask them to respect their contracts but if they don't we are ready to react."
He pointed to high gas storage levels across the EU and plans to cut energy consumption as a sign that the continent was preparing for what will be a tough winter.
Other nations might join a price cap on Russian oil agreed by G7 finance ministers on Friday, he said.
The Kremlin has blamed western sanctions for disrupting Nord Stream 1 and putting barriers in the way of routine maintenance work. Western officials have rejected this claim and Siemens Energy said sanctions do not prohibit maintenance.
Before the latest round of maintenance, Gazprom had already cut flows to just 20 per cent of the pipeline's capacity.
In a statement, Gazprom said Siemens Energy was taking part in repair work in accordance with an existing contract between the two companies and was ready to fix faults, which Gazprom said had forced it to halt gas supply to Germany through the pipeline.
Siemens Energy on Saturday said it could not immediately confirm Gazprom's statement.
Germany's gas supply situation is currently guaranteed but the situation is tense and further deterioration cannot be ruled out, the country's network regulator said.
"The defects alleged by the Russian side are not a technical reason for the halt of operations," the regulator said in its daily gas situation report.
It comes as the former energy industry boss says Vladimir Putin has left the UK “panicking” by “waging economic and psychological war”, with tactics such as closing a major gas pipeline to Europe.
Angela Knight, former chief executive of trade association Energy UK, said there had been too much dependence from the UK and Europe on energy provision from countries “not all that friendly”.
“We have been panicking as a country – Europe has been panicking as well – and it’s not surprising and I’m not critical of it," she said.
“I’m just saying that, actually, over the last, what, let’s say 20-25 years, there’s been a view about energy policy which has resulted in a lot of dependencies from external countries, and they’re not all that friendly.
“I think what has happened is that we’ve been too far away from that personal security, that country security, and too far in to dependencies which were long-distance, semi-hostile, potentially hostile, and that there’s been too much of an eye closed to the consequences because the supply was cheap and plentiful and reasonably local.
“We’ve had our energy policy wrong for a long, long time.
“It’s a really nasty shock that we’ve had.”