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Russia pledges to boost gas supplies to Europe amid energy crunch

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Russia has the potential to boost natural gas supplies to Europe, where surging gas prices have ramped up pressure on consumers, the Kremlin said Thursday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said existing gas transit routes allow for bolstering supplies before the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is intended to bring Russian gas to Germany begins operating.

“There is a potential,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters. “It all depends on demand, contractual obligations and commercial agreements.”

Europe’s soaring gas prices dropped Thursday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested his country could sell more gas to European spot buyers via its domestic market in addition to through existing long-term contracts.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Wednesday that getting Nord Stream 2 launched would quickly stabilise European energy markets, a statement seen by some in Europe as an attempt to prod regulators into moving more quickly to certify the new pipeline.

Asked about Novak’s comment, Peskov replied that Russia could boost supplies along existing routes.

Speaking during Wednesday’s government meeting on energy issues, Putin said that rapidly growing demand amid the global economic recovery from the pandemic has driven Europe’s rising gas prices. A cold winter and less power generation by alternative sources also were factors, he said.

But the Russian leader said the European Union’s efforts to switch from long-term supply contracts to spot trading in gas played a key role.

“I would like to underline that the situation in the European energy markets is a bright example of the inadmissibility of hasty and politically motivated moves in any sphere, particularly in energy issues that determine stability of industries and welfare and life quality of millions of people,” Putin said.

He strongly rejected criticism from some European politicians who alleged that Russia’s failure to boost supplies was driving price increases.

“Russia has always been a reliable gas supplier to consumers around the world, in Europe and in Asia, and always has fully met all its obligations. I want to emphasise that,” Putin said.

Putin stressed that Russian gas supplies to Europe in the first nine months of the year rose 15 percent compared with the same period in 2020, adding that they could set a new record this year.

The Russian leader also rebuffed Ukraine’s claim that Moscow was trying to cut supplies delivered through Ukrainian territory in anticipation of the Nord Stream 2 coming into service. Russia has pumped 8 percent more gas via Ukraine than envisaged by the existing transit contract, Putin said.

He said that Russia could sell more gas to European spot buyers via his country’s domestic exchange, noting that sharp price fluctuations are bad for Moscow, too.

But he added that Russia’s state-controlled gas giant Gazprom also needs to fill its own stores to serve domestic needs in anticipation of winter.

(AP, Aljazeera)

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