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November 1, 2021

Ukraine energy chief denounces Nord Stream gas pressure

A Ukrainian energy official has warned European countries of Russian aggression over gas supplies, following completion of Nord Stream 2.

By Matthew Farmer

Yuriy Vitrenko, chief executive of Ukraine’s Naftogaz, has warned European countries of Russian aggression over gas supplies.

Vitrenko said that Russian president Vladimir Putin had used gas as a “geopolitical weapon”. The statement comes following the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which enables Russia to transport gas directly to Germany, bypassing Eastern Europe.

On Friday, Vitrenko said: “If anyone has any doubts, then Putin is telling everyone to their face: ‘You allow Nord Stream 2 to become operational, or you won’t get any more gas’. He wants to reverse the clock and negotiate special conditions with politicians of different countries.”

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly voiced concern that Nord Stream 2 would allow Russia to route gas around Ukraine. The country earns significant transit fees from gas passing through its pipelines from Russia, but new contracts threaten this.

Three days earlier, the pipeline cleared certification checks in Germany. The country’s economy ministry determined that the recently-finished pipeline would not threaten gas security in the EU.

Months of aggressive renegotiations between Russia and Eastern European countries have generally moved contracts in Russia’s favour. In August, Gazprom and the Hungarian Government renegotiated their contract after the previous contract’s end. The new terms allowed Russia to transport gas to the country without going through Ukraine.

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In October, Gazprom cancelled delivery of one-third of Moldova’s gas imports ahead of contract renegotiations. The company told the Moldovan Government that it would cut all gas supplies immediately if Moldova did not accept a more expensive contract.

The recently-elected Moldovan Government has said that it aims to move away from Russian influence. Gazprom offered a more favourable price if the government removed several pro-EU policies. In response, the Moldovan Government declared a state of emergency and appealed to the EU for assistance.

On 29 October, the country signed a new 5-year gas supply contract for a significantly increased price. However, the price of $450 per 1,000 cubic metres still represents better value than European alternatives.

This also follows a relative shortage of gas across much of Europe. The resulting price increases caused difficulties in several European countries, with several energy companies in the UK declaring bankruptcy. Authorities in many countries have blamed supply chain disruption and cold weather for the shortages, although a lower supply of Russian gas also contributed.

Following its recent elections, Germany’s new government seems likely to move toward opponents of Nord Stream 2. While coalition negotiations continue, a new government would likely include the pipeline-opposing Green Party.

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