Russia's state-owned energy firm Gazprom has halted gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Western Europe on Wednesday for three days, the company said.
The energy giant said due to maintenance on Nord Stream 1 there would be no gas flow to Germany between August 31 and September 3. It said that there is "necessary" work at a compressor station that needed to be carried out after "every 1,000 hours of operation."
Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, has accused Moscow of using energy as a "weapon." Russia insists the disruptions are due to sanctions following its war on Ukraine.
Germany's Federal Network Agency chief Klaus Müller called the cessation of gas flows a "technically incomprehensible decision."
When asked about the resumption of gas supplies, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "there is a guarantee that, apart from technical problems caused by sanctions, nothing interferes with supplies."
Western capitals "have imposed sanctions against Russia, which do not allow for normal maintenance, repair work," he added.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said earlier this month said that Nord Stream was "fully operational" and refused Moscow's claims of technical issues.
Gazprom also said it would suspend gas supplies to France's main provider Engie from Thursday. Engie had failed to pay for all deliveries made in July, the Russian energy giant said.
Europe 'on the brink of an energy crisis'
Russia has also cut off supply to Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland completely, and reduced flows via other pipelines in response to sanctions that were imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is using energy as a weapon and has put Europe on the brink of an energy crisis with skyrocketing prices," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.
This disruption comes at a time when the energy market is already strained and wholesale gas prices are soaring over 400% since last August.
Gazprom had earlier stopped supply for 10 days, citing maintenance efforts for Nord Stream 1 in July.
But in contrast, the current maintenance work was announced less than two weeks in advance and is being carried out by Gazprom, not Nord Stream AG.
The reduced flows via Nord Stream are putting additional pressure on European countries as they race to fill vital gas storage facilities before winter, fearing Russia might halt flows altogether.
With winter months looming, consumers in Europe are wary of huge power bills. Countries such as France have warned that rationing is a possibility.
EU leaders have appealed to citizens to cut down on their energy usage.
Many Europeans are voluntarily cutting their energy consumption, limiting their use of electrical appliances and showering at work to reduce costs. European companies have also taken steps to slash their energy usage.
Germany prepared for shortage
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted on Tuesday that the country was well-prepared to face a possible energy shortage in case Russia squeezes gas supplies even further.
"We will be able to cope quite well with the threats that we face from Russia, which is using gas as part of its strategy in the war against Ukraine," he said.
Germany is soon expected to announce a decision on extending the operating life of its three remaining nuclear power plants.
Plans are in place to reduce German dependence on Russian gas and replace the imports by mid-2024.
In Lubmin, where Nord Stream 1 comes onshore, preparations are ongoing for a switch to liquefied natural gas.
ss/wd (AP. AFP, Reuters)
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