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Putin Rejects Suggestions Russia Using Gas As Political Tool

President Vladimir Putin has defended the reliability of Russia’s natural-gas exports to Europe, saying Moscow was ready to supply even more gas and rejecting accusations that it was using energy exports as a political tool.

Speaking at an energy conference in Moscow on October 13, Putin also brushed off suggestions that Russia was contributing to the record-high gas prices that have rattled European capitals.

“The problem isn’t ours; it’s the Europeans'” he told the conference.

Putin’s remarks came as the European Commission on October 13 presented what it termed a “toolbox” for member states to use to protect households and businesses against the rapidly rising energy prices.

Gas prices across Europe, and other parts of the world, have soared to record levels in recent weeks.

That’s caused a spike in electricity prices in countries where gas is the primary fuel for power stations, and it’s pushed up household rates — all before the onset of colder, winter temperatures.

Some analysts, and European lawmakers, have pointed the finger at Russia, which is Europe’s single-largest supplier. Its state-controlled gas-export monopoly supplier, Gazprom, has declined to book additional transit space on Ukrainian pipelines, even as prices have spiked.

But other experts have pointed to a combination of factors including disruptions with supplies from Norway — another important energy supplier — and the fact that U.S. liquified natural gas is being diverted to East Asian markets, where gas prices have been higher.

Another factor is last year’s winter, which was colder and longer than normal, and many storage facilities have not yet been able to replenish reserves.

Russia has historically relied on pipeline networks across Ukraine to supply Europe. But in recent years, Moscow has built bypass pipelines — Turk Stream, under the Black Sea; Nord Stream, under the Baltic Sea.

A second Baltic Sea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which is complete and awaiting approval from German regulators, will significantly increase volumes of Russian gas supplied to Europe.

Putin said Russia was fulfilling its contract obligations and that Moscow was ready to increase gas exports, though he did not say how, when, and via what routes.

“If they ask us to increase [deliveries] more, we are ready to do so. We are increasing them as much as our partners are asking us,” he said.

The commission, meanwhile, said the current price spike required a “rapid and coordinated response” at EU level and the existing legal framework allowed the EU to take action to address the immediate impacts.

Among the measures proposed by Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson on October 13 were emergency income support to households, state aid for companies, and targeted tax reductions.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

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