MOSCOW: Russia tightened its gas squeeze on Europe yesterday as Gazprom said supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would drop to just 20 per cent of capacity.
Gazprom said flows would fall to 33 million cubic metres per day from tomorrow – a halving of the current, already reduced level – because it needed to halt the operation of a Siemens gas turbine at a compressor station on instructions from an industry watchdog.
Germany said it saw no technical reason for the latest reduction, which comes as Russia and the West exchange economic blows in response to what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
The Dutch front-month gas contract, the European benchmark, closed 9.95pc higher on news of the latest blow to Nord Stream 1. The pipeline, which has a capacity of 55 billion cubic metres a year, is the single biggest Russian gas link to Europe.
The European Union has repeatedly accused Russia of resorting to energy blackmail, while the Kremlin says the shortfalls have been caused by maintenance issues and the effect of Western sanctions.
Politicians in Europe have said Russia could cut off gas flows this winter, which would thrust Germany into recession and lead to soaring prices for consumers already grappling with higher prices for food and energy.
Germany was forced last week to announce a $15bn bailout of Uniper, its biggest company importing gas from Russia.
President Vladimir Putin had foreshadowed the latest cut, warning the West this month that continued sanctions risked triggering catastrophic energy price rises for consumers around the world.
Russia had already cut flows through Nord Stream 1 to 40pc of capacity in June, citing the delayed return of a turbine that was being serviced by Siemens Energy in Canada – an explanation that Germany rejected as spurious.