Putin Threatens to Cut Gas to Europe

REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin
REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin

The Russian president has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and the rest of Europe unless it pays debts to energy company Gazprom.

Vladimir Putin also criticised the Ukrainian government for cutting gas supplies off to rebel-held areas in the depths of winter, calling it “genocide”, while stating state-owned energy company Gazprom would only deliver product paid for, not on account as it had before the war.

The vital gas fuel which warms homes and powers businesses all over the continent is piped into Ukraine and then onwards, but since Ukraine signalled a desire to move away from Russia and integrate with the European Union, their eastern neighbour has been less willing to heavily subsidise the state. As one third of European gas is piped from Russia, it is likely fuel supply for most European states could be affected.

Although the prospect of a gas shortage during the winter is one likely to sharpen the minds of European leaders, according to a European Union report on fuel security the prime moment for Putin to strike has already passed. According to the document, which was created as part of a drive by Eurocrats to create an EU-wide energy union, if Russian gas was ‘turned off’ during a particularly cold January, reserves of the fuel would not be enough to sustain the continent.

Although the report predicted of all European nations only Spain and Portugal would survive without severe energy shortages in such an event, it is now February and warmer weather is already on the way, potentially forestalling a crisis.

Speaking on the decision to potentially terminate the supply to cash-strapped Ukraine, Putin acknowledged it may cause repercussions for greater Europe. Saying their account had presently only paid “for three or four days’ gas supplies”, the Russian president said “Unless there is a prepayment, Gazprom will terminate the supply. Of course this may create a threat to transit to Europe, to our European partners.”

Ukraine itself has already cut off gas to eastern areas of the country which are more pro-Russia than pro-Kiev, the de jure capital. Putin criticised this decision, reports The Times. He said: “Imagine these people will be left without gas in winter. Not only that there is famine . . . It smells of genocide.”

His comments came on the same day the European Union announced it would be pressing ahead with long-held plans to resolve energy dependency on Russia, which would also effectively end sovereign control of energy for the 28 EU states.