The Russian company Gazprom is citing reasons of force majeure as stopping the supply of natural gas to at least one major customer in Europe, according to an official letter obtained by the Reuters agency.
What does the letter say?
The letter states that Gazprom, which has a monopoly on Russian natural gas exports via pipelines, could not meet its supply obligations due to “extraordinary” circumstances beyond its control.
It also states that force majeure is a special clause in contracts for deliveries starting on June 14.
A source said the letter concerned supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a major supply route to Germany and beyond.
Gazprom has not yet commented on the news.
As Reuters reports, this development is likely to escalate tensions between Russia and the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
The European Union, which has imposed sanctions on Moscow, aims to end its use of Russian fossil fuels by 2027, but wants supplies to continue for now as it moves away from Russian supplies.
Gazprom does not guarantee the re-operation of Nord Stream 1
In the meantime, the possibility of turning off the Russian gas tap for good appears closer, with Gazprom announcing that it cannot guarantee the smooth operation of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, citing that it does not have written confirmation regarding the delivery of the German turbine which had been sent to Canada for repair.
“Gazprom does not have any documents in its possession that allow Siemens to take the gas turbine engine out of Canada” (which Ottawa says, however, it wants to return to Berlin), Gazprom said in a statement.
“Under these circumstances, it is not possible to draw an objective conclusion regarding the development of the situation regarding the operation [of the pipeline] with complete safety,” the group adds.
Germany’s finance ministry declined to comment on Gazprom’s announcement that it does not have documents showing that Siemens has received permission from Canada to take delivery of the gas turbine for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
“We do not comment on statements by Gazprom,” a finance ministry spokesman said, adding, according to AFP, that Siemens said it was in the planning stage so that the transfer and development could take place as quickly as possible.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which carries Russian natural gas to Germany, was shut down on Monday for scheduled maintenance – with no certainty that flows will be restored after July 21, when it is expected to restart.
On July 20, the Commission’s emergency plan is expected to be presented in case the pipeline is not reopened.
Concerns are rife that the flow will not resume; Berlin is on energy “alert” and France now considers a complete shutdown of natural gas flows the most likely scenario.
The German press has reported extensively on the Canadian government’s decision, despite the embargo regime, to grant a “time-limited and revocable” license to the Canadian manufacturer Siemens to deliver through Germany the repaired natural gas turbine, which Russia needs to set up and pipeline back into operation.
The Russian argument for reducing flows as early as June was that when the turbine was delivered, operation would be restored, DW notes – a fact that was disputed anyway.
According to Handelsblatt, the exemption from the sanctions was justified by the relevant Canadian minister, among other things, with the argument that with his energy policy, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, “wants to divide the partners”.
Spiegel’s columnist notes: “If the Russian justification for the turbine is a sham, it will be seen very soon with Canada’s decision to make an exception to the Russian sanctions to allow supplies again.”
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung considers the Canadian decision to be correct. “Among the government’s options for action, the one described by the Minister of Economy, Robert Hambeck, is already valid in the event of a complete interruption of the supply of Russian natural gas,” he notes.
“In this case there are no right and wrong choices, but more or less wrong choices. The story of the Siemens turbine for the pipeline with its maintenance in Canada aptly illustrates this. In reality, of course, the wrong message is being sent to Moscow when the German government tries to obtain an exemption from Canadian sanctions to allow the delivery of the turbine,” the paper says, adding:
“But given Germany’s difficulties in the event of a complete shutdown of the pipeline, trying to remove a pretext from Moscow [to turn off the pipeline] is probably the least wrong option.”
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