MOSCOW, Nov. 13 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Belarus did not consult with him before discussing the possibility of cutting off Russian natural gas flows to Europe, adding that such a move would risk to damage relations between Minsk and its main ally Moscow.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to fight back against any further EU sanctions against Minsk over a standoff between migrants on the Belarusian-EU border, suggesting he could stop the transit of gas and gas. ‘other goods via Belarus. Read more
His warning briefly pushed up spot gas prices in Europe, which gets about a third of its fuel supplies from Russia, most notably through the Yamal-Europe pipeline that crosses Belarus to Poland and Germany. Read more
The Belarusian section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline is owned by the Russian state gas monopoly, Gazprom (GAZP.MM).
“I recently spoke to (Lukashenko) twice and he hasn’t told me once, he hasn’t even hinted at it,” Putin said in an interview on state television, making his remarks. first public comments on the Belarusian threat.
“Of course, in theory, Lukashenko as president of a transit country could order that our (gas) supplies be cut to Europe. But that would mean a breach of our gas transit contract and I hope that will not happen, ”added Putin.
Russia has been Belarus’ closest ally for years, helping with everything from cash to cheap energy supplies and military aid, but Lukashenko’s comments come at a sensitive time for energy exports from Russia to Europe.
Analysts say Lukashenko’s gas comments likely tested Putin’s patience with Russian gas supplies already at the center of a heated debate in Europe. Read more
European gas prices – and therefore energy bills – are on the rise this year, with the recovery from the pandemic triggering increased demand, forcing customers from Europe to Asia to fight for supply.
Some European politicians have accused Moscow of not doing more than simply sending out contract volumes of gas, in order to calm prices.
The European Commission said on Friday that if Lukashenko followed through on his threats, it would do more harm to gas suppliers.
During the interview on Saturday, Putin said that if Belarus cuts off supplies, it will “cause great damage” to the European energy sector “and will not help to develop our relations with Belarus as a transit country” .
“I’ll bring this up with him (Lukashenko) in case it wasn’t something (he) said in the heat of the moment,” Putin said.
Russia, which this week started ramping up supplies to recharge its European storage ahead of the winter heating season, said more could happen once its new Nord Stream 2 pipeline receives the green light from Germany.
Nord Stream 2 is another Russian gas pipeline designed to bypass transit countries, particularly Ukraine, which has a history of gas price deadlocks with Moscow.
The Kremlin calls the pipeline a “purely commercial project” and denies that politics are behind it in any way.
Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Tom Balmforth Editing by Helen Popper
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