Russia’s Gazprom says it has cut gas supplies to Latvia

The announcement is the latest escalation in the energy conflict between Russia and the European Union. Gazprom had already interrupted the annual gas supply to its customers in at least six European countries, namely Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, because they had not carried out ruble payments.

Moscow demanded ruble payments in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Moscow by Western countries for its war against Ukraine.

The sanctions have frozen large chunks of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves and cut off its financial institutions from the international banking system. By insisting on ruble payments, Moscow is essentially forcing Europe to buy its currency.

Gazprom’s announcement came just a day after Latvian energy company Latvijas Gaze announced it was buying gas from neighboring Russia, adding that it was not buying from Gazprom and was paying in euros.

Earlier this month, the Latvian parliament voted in favor of a proposal to ban Russian gas supplies from January 2023.

The EU has agreed to ration gas, but some countries are fighting

Meanwhile, Gazprom also drastically reduced flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline earlier this month, accusing the West of withholding vital equipment due to sanctions. Europe said Russia’s actions were politically motivated.

The pipeline, which delivered around 35% of Russia’s total gas imports to Europe last year, had been closed for 10 days for routine maintenance. When summarized amounts last week, gas was flowing through Nord Stream 1 at 40% of full capacity.

The move prompted Germany to declare a “gas crisis” and activate the second phase of its three-stage gas emergency program, bringing it one step closer to rationing industry supply.

The EU, of which Latvia is a member, agreed last week to reduce the demand for natural gas by 15% this winter to save gas “to prepare for possible gas supply disruptions from Russia”.

However, the bloc has watered down its ambitions by offering countries significant leeway. The EU will exempt countries that are not interconnected with other members’ gas networks from the 15% target, because “they would not be able to release significant volumes of pipeline to other member states”, it said. said the Council of the EU in a press release.