Putin 'continues to use energy as a weapon' says Von der Leyen
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Europeans are gearing up for a potentially catastrophic winter as Vladimir Putin has started to switch off the gas from flowing to a dozen of European countries. In a further blow to Europe’s gas supplies, Russia is bound to temporarily shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline – the EU’s biggest piece of gas import infrastructure – from July 11 for annual maintenance. Fear is now mounting about the possibility for Russia to continue to squeeze Europe’s supply beyond the planned end of the maintenance works.
Speaking from the European Parliament of Strasbourg, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned: “We also need to prepare now for further disruption of gas supplies and even a complete cut-up of Russian gas supply.
“Just to give you a figure today 12 member states are already directly affected by a partial or total cut-off of Russian gas.”
Among the countries reporting complete Russian gas cut-off are Bulgaria, Poland and Finland. Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy have seen the influx of Russian gas slow down.
“So, it is obvious Putin continues to use energy as a weapon,” President Von der Leyen said.
“And this is why the Commission is working on a European emergency plan,” President Von der Leyen said. “We will present this plan and the necessary instruments by mid-July.
“Member states have their national contingency plans. That’s good. But I think we need European cooperation, and we need common action as 27.
“We need to make sure in case of full disruption the gas flows where it’s needed most.”
In total, the EU receives approximately 40 percent of its gas from Russian pipelines. Though they have been trying to diversify their energy sources, the EU appears to still be scrambling with energy sources.
In a sign of a potentially cold winter in Europe, Putin could continue to squeeze Russia’s gas supplies.
“We cannot rule out the possibility that gas transport will not be resumed afterwards for political reasons,” Klaus Mueller, the head of Germany’s energy regulator, told CNBC.
As a result of slowing gas flows, European electricity prices have reached their highest level on record.
In a letter to Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, billionaire investor George Soros said Putin “was obviously blackmailing Europe” with gas cut-offs.
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“That’s what he did last season. He put gas in storage rather than supplying gas to Europe. This created a shortage, raised prices and earned him a lot of money, but his bargaining position is not as strong as he pretends,” Mr Soros said.
However, Mr Soros also said the blackmailing could backfire on Russia, which is also highly dependent on the EU’s gas revenue.
“It is estimated that Russian storage capacity will be full by July. Europe is his only market. If he doesn’t supply Europe, he must shut down the wells in Siberia from where the gas comes.
“Some 12,000 wells are involved. It takes time to shut them down and once they are shut down, they are difficult to reopen because of the age of the equipment,” Soros wrote in the letter.
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