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European Commission rejects claims Russia manipulating gas market to drive up costs

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows workers during the production process of pipes, in the production hall at the Nord Stream 2 facility at Mukran on Rugen Island, Germany.

The European Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans has rejected recent accusations that Moscow is deliberately restricting gas flows to Europe and is manipulating the gas market to drive up costs, amid an ongoing energy crisis across the continent.

Timmermans rejected the claims during an interview with Bulgarian broadcaster bTV on Friday, saying there was no evidence that Russian state energy company Gazprom was attempting to squeeze Western Europe’s fuel supplies.

“Russia is fulfilling its gas supply contracts,” he said, adding, “We have no reason to believe it is putting pressure on the market or manipulating it.”

He said that “the demand for gas at the global level is huge,” including in Europe.

The rejection came after US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm implied last month that Russia was manipulating the gas market to hurt Europe. A number of analysts have since blamed Russia for not ramping up its output in response to growing demand.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Europe for the ongoing energy crisis, citing the continent’s transition to green energy and low investment in extraction industries. He also denounced as “complete nonsense” allegations that Moscow was using energy as a weapon, saying Europe’s gas shortage was largely caused by “systematic flaws” in the continent’s energy market. Putin also said that Russia was “ready” to increase gas exports, adding that supplies were going up by “as much as our partners are asking us.”

Russia supplies more than a third of Europe’s gas.

Gas prices in Europe have surged by more than 25 percent amid growing demand before the winter. The jump in prices to record peaks have fanned inflation concerns, sending equities sliding as investors worried higher prices could choke the global economic recovery.

Washington and several of its European allies accuse Moscow of intentionally limiting gas supplies to Europe in an effort to hasten the launch of Nord Stream 2, a pipeline connecting Russia with Germany.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been completed and is ready to pump Russian gas to Europe. But nothing is flowing yet because it is still awaiting clearance from Germany’s energy regulator.

The $12-billion (10-billion-euro) project would deliver gas from the Arctic to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The project, led by Gazprom and its Western partners, is set to double Russian gas supplies to Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy.

But it has been fiercely opposed by the United States and its European allies, which claim that it would increase “energy dependence” on Russia and contribute to Moscow’s geopolitical influence.

Earlier this month, Moscow reiterated that Gazprom, whose gas exports outside the former Soviet Union rose 15.3% year on year in the first nine months of 2021, was meeting all its contract obligations in full.

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