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Olaf Scholz says Russia blocking gas turbine delivery

August 3, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he is calling Russia's bluff over a repaired turbine that Russia says is the reason for its decision to cut gas supplies. Moscow claims sanctions are stopping the part's delivery.

Olaf Scholz standing in front of the turbine
Scholz says the turbine is ready for delivery now, but Russia is using its absence as an excuseImage: Bernd Thissen/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday accused Moscow of using technicalities as an excuse for halting gas supplies to Europe.

Russia has said it is a reliable partner when it comes to fuel delivery. However, Germany and other Western nations suspect that the Kremlin is throttling the gas supply in retaliation for sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

What did Scholz say?

Visiting a Siemens factory in Mühlheim, western Germany, the German chancellor said it was clear that the turbine worked.

"It can be transported and used at any time," he said. "The non-fulfillment of the gas supply contracts has no technical reasons whatsoever."

The turbine was repaired in Canada and is being temporarily stored in the western city of Mülheim before being brought to Russia for return to the pipeline.

Lubmin Nord Stream 1 pipeline
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline delivers gas to Lubmin in northeastern GermanyImage: Jens Büttner/dpa/picture alliance

Earlier, in an interview with the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, Scholz said he was holding Russian President Vladimir Putin to his word by accepting the unit and saying it was ready to be sent to Russia.

"With the delivery of the turbine, we called Russian President Vladimir Putin's bluff," Scholz said. "He cannot use this pretext anymore and cite technical reasons for declining gas deliveries."

The chancellor said the turbine had received "all the approvals" it needed for export from Germany to Russia. He added that the operators of the pipeline only needed to say that "they want to have the turbine and provide the necessary customs information for transport to Russia."

Scholz came to the defense of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amid criticism of his decision to waive sanctions rules by allowing the turbine to leave Canada.

"I consider the criticism of Justin Trudeau and his government as utterly baseless," he said. "The decision to deliver the turbine is hardly a favor to Gazprom. It is a strong sign of support for Germany and for Europe."

Scholz's comments and visit coincided with the publication of a newspaper interview from former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, now a senior member of the Nord Stream company board, alleging that the fault in fact lay with Siemens. Schröder's close ties to Russia and the role of his party, the center-left Social Democrat (SPD) in German dependence on Russian gas down the years has become something of a political millstone for Scholz at home and abroad. 

Map showing Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany

What's happening with Germany's gas supply?

The Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom blamed the delayed return of the turbine for the initial reduction in deliveries of gas. Gazprom claims Siemens is failing to deliver the part, while Siemens says it is ready for export with the right paperwork from Russia.

Deliveries via the undersea Nord Stream 1 supply link were reduced to about 20% of capacity in late July, citing technical problems over the turbine.

Germany — which is heavily dependent on Russian gas — has dismissed the decision to limit supplies as "political" after European Union nations imposed a raft of sanctions on Russia.

As Germany tries to reduce dependence on Russian energy imports, Scholz also said on Wednesday that it "can make sense" to keep Germany's remaining three nuclear plants running.

Berlin has said it will await the outcome of a new "stress test" of the national electric grid before it decides whether to fully phase out nuclear power.

The extension of the lifetime of nuclear power plants has been a bone of contention in German, with disagreement among the parties in Scholz's coalition on what to do.

rc/msh (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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