Putin says Russia ready to increase gas flows as EU prices soar
President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia was ready to boost natural gas supplies abroad, after Europe accused Moscow of curbing flows and pushing prices to new records.
Speaking at an energy forum in Moscow, Putin said Russia was ready to meet new orders from buyers for higher volumes.
“If they ask us to increase more, we are ready to do so,” Putin said, adding that Russia is increasing supplies “as much as our partners are asking us.”
Europe is facing a gas crisis leading up to the coldest season of the year, with a surge in prices and depleting reserves caused by a cold end to last winter.
Demand is rallying as economies ramp up after the end of pandemic lockdowns and there are dips in energy supply from renewables like wind.
Some in Europe are blaming Russia for the increase in gas prices, saying Moscow is intentionally not boosting supplies to pressure Europe for more long-term contracts and for the certification of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
But Putin on Wednesday blamed “systemic flaws” in the European energy market and brushed off criticism, saying that “some try to pass their errors onto others”.
Russian officials have repeatedly said over recent weeks that suppliers are fulfilling obligations under contracts with European buyers.
Moscow is not upping supplies available on the short-term spot markets, which the EU prefers, arguing it is more competitive.
Russia’s energy minister Nikolai Shulginov said earlier Wednesday that new contracts would be needed for increased deliveries to Europe.
“If there are requests, that will only be via the establishment of new contractual obligations,” he said, describing Russia as a “reliable supplier”.
At Wednesday’s forum, Putin said it was “very important” to find a “long-term” mechanism to stabilise the market, which he said was in a “difficult situation.”
– Geopolitical concerns –
Russia, which supplies more than a third of European gas, has said a speedy launch of its Nord Stream 2 pipeline would help combat the surge in prices.
The Baltic Sea pipeline — criticised by some Western countries as a geopolitical weapon — is set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.
But critics charge that the recently constructed pipeline would deprive Ukraine — a key EU ally — of transit fees.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week called on Brussels to develop a “common long-term vision of Europe’s energy security”.
Moscow has also not booked additional gas transit capacity via Ukraine to Europe for October, raising concerns.
Putin said Wednesday that if Russia were able to deliver gas to Europe via Nord Stream 2 it would “significantly decrease” pressure and “obviously affect the gas prices on the European market”.
He added that allegations from some European capitals that Russia was using energy as a geopolitical weapon were “politically-charged babble that have no grounds”.
Russia denies it is pressuring customers, saying it needs to fill its own reserves for the winter before sending supplies on to Europe.
European and UK gas prices meanwhile surged last week to record peaks, energised by fears of runaway demand in the upcoming northern hemisphere winter.
The crisis has also been exacerbated by a lack of wind at turbine sites, coupled with ongoing nuclear outages and the winding down of coal power by climate-conscious governments.