Russian state-owned firm Gazprom has halted gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to western Europe for three days as Moscow faces accusations that it is weaponizing energy.
Russia’s energy giant announced that maintenance work required a halt to natural gas flows to Germany from Wednesday to Saturday.
Germany has accused Moscow of using gas to drive up prices and weaken the European Union’s resolve over sanctions imposed following President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Siemens Energy, which carries out repair work on turbines used to pump gas through the pipeline, said last week there was no news to report on the maintenance of equipment linked to it, Reuters reported. The firm said it was not involved in technical works carried out by Gazprom but was ready to advise the company if required.
The 745-mile Nord Stream 1 that transports gas under the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast near St. Petersburg to northeastern Germany has been operating at just 20 percent capacity which Russia said was due to faulty equipment.
It had shut down several gas turbines, one of which Siemens had manufactured in Canada where it had been sent for repairs.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said last Wednesday that Ottawa would stick to a sanctions waiver to allow turbines to be returned to Russia via Germany after servicing, Reuters reported.
Russia had warned two weeks ago that the outage was due but the German government said it had not been formally told, receiving the information via Gazprom’s Telegram channel.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Federal Network Agency chief Klaus Müller called the halting of gas a “technically incomprehensible decision.”
“I trust that Russia will return to 20 percent on Saturday, but no one can really say,” he added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Gazprom was “committed” to its contractual obligations to supply energy but “the Europeans brought this situation to a head, it was their own sanctions,” RIA Novosti reported.
In July, Nord Stream 1 was shut down for 10 days which Russia also said was for repairs, stoking concerns among European leaders that Moscow will cut off supplies during the peak winter months.
Further restrictions could deepen an energy crunch in Europe that has triggered a surge in wholesale gas prices, putting pressure on governments to ease the burden faced by consumers and businesses.
This week, Gazprom said it would suspend gas deliveries to its French contractor Engie because of a payments dispute. French Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher accused Russia of “using gas as a weapon of war”.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Gazprom has reduced flows into 12 European Union member states and cut supplies into Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland.