Russia’s Gazprom cuts off gas supplies to Latvia

Senior Latvian official says move has little effect as Baltic country already decided to ban Russian gas imports from January.

Russian gas producer Gazprom has said it has stopped sending gas to Latvia after accusing it of violating supply conditions, a move the Baltic country said would have little impact on its gas supplies.

Russia has already cut off gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Netherlands and Denmark, which refused to pay for gas in line with an order by President Vladimir Putin requiring rouble accounts to be set up in a Russian bank.

Russia has also halted gas sales to Shell Energy Europe in Germany.

In a statement on Saturday, Gazprom did not specify which gas supply conditions Latvia, a European Union and NATO military alliance member bordering Russia, had allegedly violated.

Edijs Saicans, deputy state secretary on energy policy at the Latvian economy ministry, said Gazprom’s move would have little effect given that Latvia has already decided to ban Russian gas imports from January 1, 2023.

“We do not see any major impacts from such a move,” he said.

Gazprom’s announcement came a day after Latvian energy firm Latvijas Gaze said it was buying gas from Russia and paying in euros rather than the roubles required when trading with Gazprom.

A spokesperson for Latvijas Gaze, however, said on Friday that it was not buying gas from Gazprom. Latvijas Gaze would not name its Russian provider, citing business confidentiality.

Latvijas Gaze did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday following Gazprom’s announcement.

EU countries agreed on Tuesday to an emergency regulation to curb their gas use this coming winter, preparing for a season of uncertain supplies from Russia.

In March, Putin said the world’s largest natural gas producer would require countries designated as “unfriendly” in their stance on Moscow’s actions in Ukraine to pay for piped gas in roubles.

The European Commission – which has warned that complying with Putin’s order could breach EU sanctions on Moscow – has urged companies to keep paying in the currency agreed in their contracts with Gazprom. Most are in euros or dollars.

Gazprom drastically cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 percent of its capacity.

The Russian state-run company had earlier announced it would choke supply to 33 million cubic metres a day – half the amount it has been delivering since service resumed last week after 10 days of maintenance work.

The EU this week agreed upon a plan to reduce gas consumption in solidarity with Germany, to where the Nord Stream pipeline runs, warning of Russian “blackmail”.

EU states have accused Russia of squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

Gazprom cited the halted operation of one of the last two operating turbines for the pipeline due to the “technical condition of the engine”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has blamed EU sanctions for the limited supply.

“Technical pumping capacities are down, more restricted. Why? Because the process of maintaining technical devices is made extremely difficult by the sanctions adopted by Europe,” Peskov said.

“Gazprom was and remains a reliable guarantor of its obligations … but it can’t guarantee the pumping of gas if the imported devices cannot be maintained because of European sanctions,” he said.

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