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11 Oct, 2023 21:44

Putin laments lack of ‘smart people’ at top of Western politics

There is no “sensible explanation” for the EU eschewing Russian gas supplies, the president has said
Putin laments lack of ‘smart people’ at top of Western politics

Russia sees absolutely no sense in the EU’s current policy of forgoing Russian energy supplies, particularly gas, President Vladimir Putin told the Russian Energy Week forum on Wednesday. He added that “the modern political system in [the West] obviously sometimes brings not the smartest people to the top.”

Speaking about the issue of Russian gas exports to Europe, he pointed to what he called a lack of common sense in some European capitals.

“There is no sensible explanation to why some European economies, including Germany's, should behave like this,” the president said, referring to the situation in the European energy market. He called it “surprising” that European nations did not demand that Kiev reopen one of the Russian gas pipelines going through Ukraine after it was shut down.

Ukraine halted Russian gas transit along one of the routes running through its territory back in May, arguing that it had lost control over one of the gas compressor stations. The station in question is located in the Lugansk People’s Republic, which voted to join Russia last year.

The Ukrainian pipeline operator claimed that Russian forces controlling the compressor station were somehow “interfering” with its technical processes and shut down its part of the line. Moscow denied the allegations and warned that Russian gas exports could not be effectively re-routed to other pipelines to compensate for the shutdown.

In July, Kiev said that it might cut Russian gas supplies to Europe altogether as it does not intend to renew the transit deal with Moscow. “I believe, by the winter of 2024, Europe will not need Russian gas at all,” Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko told Politico.

The 2019 transit agreement allows Russia to export some 40 billion cubic meters of gas per year via Ukraine until the end of 2024. A third of this volume should have reached Europe via a pipeline that Kiev has already cut off.

“Europe could have just said: ‘Open this route now. We need it to support our economy. But no,” Putin said, commenting on Kiev’s actions. A similar approach could have been used when Poland terminated a supply contract with Russia ahead of its end-2022 expiry date. Warsaw rejected Moscow's demand for ruble payments in May 2022 and started using its leg of the Yamal-Europe Pipeline to pump stored gas from Germany.

The Yamal-Europe Pipeline, which links European customers to the natural gas fields in Russia’s north, used to carry nearly half of Gazprom’s westbound gas deliveries. Moscow repeatedly stated that it was ready to restart supplies of natural gas to the EU via this route, adding that the shipments had been halted in the first place for political reasons.

Germany might have pointed to the fact that it was the biggest donor to the EU common budget while Poland was the largest recipient of EU funds, Putin said, adding that Berlin might have told Warsaw “not to bite the hand that feeds you.”

The German government could have also approved the use of the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the Russian leader stated. One of the two pipeline strings remained operable after a series of underwater explosions that destroyed the other three strings of Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2.

“Nord Stream 2 is a direct [route] to Germany,” Putin said, adding that it could have “delivered 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.” Instead, Germany “opts to by [gas] with a 30% premium and not use our energy resource. That’s their choice,” the president added.