Andrei Kremlin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UK has intimated Russia is not withholding gas supplies to Europe for political reasons, saying the commitments to increase supply would take time to take effect.
Globally, gas supply has soared as economies start to recover from the Covid pandemic. The US has expressed concern that Russia may be using gas as a political weapon as household bills rise.
Russia only provides about 5 per cent of the UK’s gas usage, but it accounts for about half of the EU’s natural gas imports, with most of the rest coming from Norway and Algeria.
According to some analysts, Russia could be holding back supplies to Europe to speed up approval of the newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline running directly from Russia to Germany.
“Russia can only deliver gas on the basis of contractual obligations and not just like that.” Gazprom, Russia’s majority state-owned energy company, supplies gas to Europe under two different arrangements: long-term contracts often lasting from 10 to 25 years, and spot deals or one-off purchases for a fixed amount of gas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated claims Russia is withholding gas to put pressure on Germany over Nord Stream 2 are “complete rubbish… and politically motivated tittle-tattle”.
“Certainly, we do not withhold it for political reasons. But gas problems, this is at the pump stations, of course,” he indicated.
Gas Allegations considered a blather
Mr Putin has described the gas allegations as a blather and yet the Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that German Nord Stream 2 approval “would give a positive signal and cool off the current situation”. Mr Kremlin said he didn’t see “any contradiction” with that.
He further said the pipeline was ready and that “we expect final go-ahead from Germany. So, as soon as it will happen then of course new gas supplies will come from this pipeline”.
Asked whether Russia would carry on increasing the amount of gas for Western Europe if Germany did not approve the pipeline quickly, Mr Kremlin said: “As much as we can do that.
“We have increased supplies via Ukraine pipeline by 10 per cent, but as we understand [it] we cannot do more because the equipment at this pipeline has never been modernised and has never been reconstructed so it is simply dangerous to use it.”
When challenged about a lack of evidence that Russia has increased supply through the Ukraine by 10 per cent, Mr Kremlin said he was not a specialist in that area.
He added that supply would not increase so soon after Mr Putin announcing that it would. He further noted that “Gas travels at not the speed of light of course, it goes very slowly by that.”
“So what do you expect, once the president has said, tomorrow prices will go down? This is not possible.”Andrei Kremlin, Ambassador to UK