Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says Europeans are expected to experience a harsh winter amid cuts in oil and gas exports by Russia in the wake of Western sanctions against Moscow over its military operation in the former Soviet country.
Zelensky made the comment late on Saturday after Moscow shut down a main pipeline supplying Russian gas to Europe and cited the US-led sanctions as well as technical issues for the disruptions.
"Russia is preparing a decisive energy blow on all Europeans for this winter," the Ukrainian leader claimed in a daily video address.
Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, suspended natural gas flows to Europe via Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Wednesday, amid a worsening energy crisis in the continent. Gazprom said the stoppage would last for three days. But it later added the shutdown would be extended over a technical fault, providing no timeframe for a reopening.
“Gas transportation to the Nord Stream gas pipeline has been completely halted until the complaints on the operation of the equipment have been eliminated,” the Russian gas giant said in a statement. "Until it is repaired... the transport of gas via Nord Stream is completely suspended."
The Kremlin had earlier warned about the future operations of the pipeline that was at risk due to a lack of spare parts.
While the EU has accused Russia of cutting supplies in retaliation for the sanctions, Moscow has insisted the sanctions have made the technical maintenance of the pipeline very difficult for the Russian company.
Gazprom says the delayed return of the turbine from Canada, where the unit was being serviced, was the cause of the initial reduction in gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in June. That month, the company curtailed its gas supply to Europe by 40 percent. Then, it drastically cut the deliveries through the pipeline to about 20 percent of its capacity in July.
Russia launched the operation in Ukraine on February 24, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At the time, President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Since the onset of the operation, the United States and its European allies have supplied billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Ukraine and imposed unprecedented sanctions on Moscow, despite Russia’s repeated warnings that it will only prolong the war.