In a televised meeting on October 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the head of state-owned energy company Gazprom to increase gas supplies to European storage facilities, Radio Free Liberty Europe reports.
Gazprom will first finish pumping gas into Russia’s own underground storage facilities. This process could be completed as soon as November 8, after which Putin has instructed Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller to begin pumping gas to similar facilities in Germany and Austria.
This timeframe would allow Gazprom to “fulfil your contractual obligations to supply European partners with gas in the autumn and winter period”, Putin added.
Gas reserves in Europe are at their lowest in over five years as producers struggle to keep up with increased consumption as populations emerge from lockdowns. Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier, has been accused by some European politicians of intentionally withholding gas supplies to encourage officials to approve Nord Stream 2, a new pipeline which will carry Russian gas across the Baltic.
On October 1, Gazprom stopped deliveries of gas to Moldova, which is trying to diversify its gas providers in order to reduce its dependence on Moscow. As a result, the European Commission has provided Moldova with a €60mn grant to help fund purchases of gas from other sources while new contracts are being negotiated, including with Gazprom.
The Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Aleksandr Pankin has denied allegations that Moscow is using gas as a geopolitical weapon to ensure Moldovan loyalty. “Nobody is planning to do any harm to Moldova”, he is quoted as saying by RIA News.
The energy crisis currently unfolding in Europe is set to see oil and gas prices soar across the continent, as well as increasing the cost of living. Some European countries have turned to coal-fired power stations to help meet demand, while France has capped gas prices for the year, shifting the financial burden onto providers in the short term. The crisis is driven by declining European gas supply and greatly increased demand as economies accelerate out of the coronacrisis.