BERLIN: The German government on Wednesday accused Russia of using the absence of a turbine as a pretext to limit gas deliveries via a key pipeline due to go back online this week.
“I would like to stress that, according to our information, this is an excuse by the Russian side,” a German economy ministry spokeswoman told reporters when asked about the reduced flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom has reduced flows to Germany via Nord Stream 1 by some 60 percent in recent weeks, blaming the absence of a Siemens gas turbine that was undergoing repairs in Canada.
The repaired turbine is currently understood to be en route to Russia, as routine maintenance work that completely halted deliveries via Nord Stream 1 is due to be completed on Thursday.
Data from management company Gascade on Wednesday showed that gas was expected to begin flowing through the pipeline again on Thursday, although it remained to be seen how much would be delivered.
Berlin has rejected Gazprom’s turbine explanation and believes Russia is squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
“We are doing everything we can to eliminate this excuse from the Russian side,” the economy ministry spokeswoman said, noting that the turbine in question was not meant to be deployed until September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted on Tuesday that Gazprom would meet all its delivery obligations.
“Gazprom has fulfilled, is fulfilling and will fulfil its obligations in full,” Putin told reporters in Tehran after holding talks with the leaders of Iran and Turkey.
However, he said that as another gas turbine was due to be sent for maintenance at the end of this month, meaning energy flows could fall to 20 percent of capacity from next week.
Meanwhile, Gazprom said on Wednesday that it had “not yet received from Siemens any official documents that would allow the delivery of the gas turbine engine” under sanctions imposed by Canada and the EU.
The company tweeted that it had “repeatedly requested such documents”, noting that the turbines “have a direct influence on the operational safety of the Nord Stream gas pipeline”.
Since Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 and the West responded with sanctions against Moscow, Russia has begun reducing its gas deliveries to prevent EU countries from replenishing reserves.
The looming crunch has prompted the European Commission to prepare a “gas demand reduction plan” to get through the next winter.
Presenting the plan, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also dismissed Moscow’s explanation, noting that there were “alternative turbines that fit”.
“It is in transit, it will be there in time. No pretext to not to deliver,” she said.