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Western sanctions standing in way of Russian gas flow to Europe: Moscow

Pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany, on March 8, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia says technical problems caused by Western sanctions on Moscow over the war in Ukraine are obstructing Russian gas exports to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that “apart from technological problems caused by sanctions, nothing hinders” the gas supplies to Europe.

He made the remarks when asked if he could guarantee that energy giant Gazprom would restart gas flows via Nord Stream 1 after maintenance.

Gazprom announced it would shut the pipeline for three days from Wednesday to undertake maintenance of a single pumping unit at the Portovaya compressor station.

Gazprom will restart the gas flow via Nord Stream 1 after the maintenance, Peskov said.

"European countries, Canada, the USA, [and] Great Britain imposed sanctions against the Russian Federation, which do not allow carrying out normal maintenance and repair work, and also do not allow legal registration of the return of components and assemblies to their places of operation," Peskove added.

"There are no other obstacles for Russia to fulfill its obligations," he said.

The pipeline stretches 1,200 km under the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast near St Petersburg to north-eastern Germany.

Natural gas prices have soared in Europe to all-time highs since the West began unleashing waves of sanctions against Moscow in response to Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

Ever since, Gazprom has drastically cut the deliveries through the pipeline to about 20 percent of its capacity, saying that the anti-Russia sanctions have blocked the delivery of a turbine needed to stream gas to Europe via pipeline.

The company said last month that the delayed return of the turbine from Canada, where the unit was being serviced, was behind the initial reduction in gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in June.

The European Union (EU), however, has accused Russia of cutting supplies in retaliation for the sanctions.

France accuses Russia of using gas as 'weapon of war'

France's Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher on Tuesday accused Russia of using energy supplies as "a weapon of war."

"Very clearly, Russia is using gas as a weapon of war and we must prepare for the worst-case scenario of a complete interruption of supplies," she told France Inter radio.

She made the remarks after French utility company Engie announced that Gazprom would reduce gas deliveries from Tuesday over a contract disagreement. Engie did not specify the reason for the dispute, but said it "had already secured the volumes necessary to meet its commitment towards its customers and its own requirements."

Russian gas deliveries to the French company have fallen to only 1.5 terawatt hours per month, Engie said. In 2021, Gazprom supplied 121 TWh of gas to Engie.

Engie is holding talks with Algeria's Sonatrach on alternatives to Russian gas.

Europe is already on notice that supplies will be squeezed as Gazprom shuts off the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline for maintenance. European energy ministers will hold an emergency meeting on September 9 to discuss the crisis.

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