Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday denied that Moscow was using its energy exports as a “weapon” after Russia halted natural gas deliveries via a key pipeline to Europe.
The Nord Stream pipeline has been closed for several days after Russia said it would be under repair for an indefinite period of time, reinforcing fears of an energy price crisis in Europe with winter approaching.
Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian supplies, has accused Moscow of using energy as blackmail in response to sanctions over Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
“They say that Russia uses energy as a weapon. More nonsense! What weapon do we use? We supply as much as required according to requests” from importers, Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.
Russian gas giant Gazprom said Friday that Nord Stream — due to reopen last the weekend after three days of maintenance — would remain shut for repairs after oil leaks were found in a turbine.
The Kremlin insists sanctions have prevented the proper maintenance of Russian gas infrastructure and, in particular, blocked the return of a Siemens turbine that had been undergoing repairs in Canada.
“Give us a turbine, we will turn Nord Stream on tomorrow”, Putin said at the Vladivostok forum.
“We are ready to do this tomorrow, just need to press a button. But we were not the ones who introduced sanctions,” Putin added.
– ‘Another stupidity’ –
Speaking about the possibility of a price cap on Russian natural gas, Putin said it was “another stupidity” and “another non-market solution with no prospects”.
Putin warned that Moscow will stop deliveries to countries that introduce price caps on Russian energy exports.
“We will not supply anything at all if it is contrary to our interests, in this case economic (interests),” he said. “No gas, no oil, no coal, no fuel oil, nothing.”
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed that member states agree a price cap that would “cut Russia’s revenues” used to finance militiary action in Ukraine.
G7 industrialised powers on Friday vowed to move urgently towards implementing a price cap on Russian oil imports, in a bid to cut off a major source of funding for Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.
Putin said Russia would respect its contractual obligations and hoped other countries would do the same.
“Those who are trying to impose something on us are in no position today to dictate their will,” Putin said.
“They should come to their senses.”
Pointing to rising energy prices in Europe ahead of winter, Putin insisted Russia would supply nothing outside of existing contracts, quoting a Russian fairy tale: “Freeze, freeze, the wolf tail”.
Following the imposition of economic sanctions over the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine, Russia has reduced or halted supplies to different European nations, causing energy prices to soar.
The EU has looked to reduce its dependence on Russian energy resources and has agreed a plan to decrease natural gas consumption across the bloc.