21st July, 2022
Russia will resume gas supplies via a major pipeline to Europe on Thursday, the pipeline operator said, amid concerns Moscow would use its vast energy exports to counter Western pressure over its invasion of Ukraine.
Resumption of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline at reduced capacity after a 10-day maintenance break could take several hours, a spokesman for the operator told Reuters.
The restart of the pipeline came after comments from Russia’s foreign minister showed that the Kremlin’s goals had widened during the five-month war.
Sergei Lavrov told the state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Russia’s military “tasks” in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbas region.
Lavrov also said Moscow’s targets will be further expanded if the West continues to supply Kyiv with long-range weapons, such as US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
“That means that the geographical tasks will extend even further than the current line,” he said, adding that peace talks are meaningless at the moment.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later told RIA that Moscow is not closing the door on talks with Kyiv despite Lavrov’s comments.
Concerns that Russian gas supplies sent through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could be halted by Moscow prompted the European Union to tell member states on Wednesday to cut gas use by 15% through March as a precautionary measure. emergency.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, describing a complete cutoff of Russian gas flows as “a likely scenario” for which “Europe must be prepared.”
A spokesman for Austria’s OMV said Russia’s Gazprom said it would deliver around 50% of agreed gas volumes via Nord Stream on Thursday, levels seen before the lockdown.
Russia, the world’s largest gas exporter, has denied Western accusations of using its energy supplies as a tool of coercion, saying it has been a reliable energy supplier.
As for its oil, Russia will not send supplies to the world market if a price cap is imposed below the cost of production, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.
FIGHT AGAINST HIGH MOUNTAINS
On the front lines, the Ukrainian military has reported heavy and sometimes fatal Russian shelling amid what it says were largely unsuccessful attempts by Russian ground forces to advance into the Lugansk and Donetsk regions that make up the Donbas.
“In the Luhansk region, there is probably not a single square meter of land left untouched by Russian artillery,” Serhiy Gaidai, the regional governor, said on the Telegram messaging app. “The shelling is very intense. They only stop when the metal ‘gets tired.’”
In the previous 24 hours, Ukrainian forces said they had killed more than 100 Russian soldiers in the south and east and destroyed 17 vehicles, some of them armored.
The Russian-installed administration in Ukraine’s partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region said Ukraine had carried out a drone attack on a nuclear power plant there, but the reactor was not damaged.
Multiple explosions were also heard in the Russian-controlled southern region of Kherson overnight and into Thursday, the Russian news agency TASS reported.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.