Putin piles PRESSURE on Europe after Kremlin confirms shutdown of key gas pipeline

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One academic has urged Washington and Brussels to strike a deal permanently banning all Russian energy exports once and for all, warning: “There can’t be a return to business as usual with the Kremlin”. Russia’s state-owned energy company, Gazprom, today said Nord Stream 1 will shut down for three days at the end of this month to undergo what it called “routine maintenance”.

In a statement posted online, Gazprom said the only operational turbine at a key compressor station along the pipeline, which links Western Russia and Germany, will close from August 31 to September 2.

In a reference to its German partner, Siemens Energy, the company said: “A set of routine maintenance in accordance with the current maintenance contract will be carried out jointly with Siemens specialists.”

Gazprom said that once work is completed, the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1 would resume at its prior level of 33 million cubic metres – which is itself just 20 percent of the pipeline’s nominal capacity.

Flows of natural gas through Nord Stream 1 have been highly contentious. The shutdown will come a month after Gazprom restored natural gas supply through the pipeline to only a fifth of its capacity after a previous shut-off for maintenance.

Russia has blamed the reductions through the pipeline on technical problems, but Germany calls them a political stunt intended to sow uncertainty and push up prices amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The newly announced maintenance shut-off raises additional fears that Russia could completely cut off gas which is used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes to try to gain political leverage over Europe as it tries to boost its storage levels for winter.

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Natural gas prices have surged as Russia has reduced or cut off natural gas flows to a dozen European Union countries, fuelling inflation and raising the risk that Europe could plunge into recession.

One of the Nord Stream 1 turbines is currently stuck in Germany after undergoing maintenance in Canada.

Germany has said it could be transported any day but Moscow keeps saying that sanctions imposed by Canada, the European Union and Britain prevented the equipment from being shipped back to Russia.

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Siemens, which is in charge of maintaining the Nord Stream 1 turbines, declined to comment.

Earlier, senior German politicians from governing parties rejected suggestions that gas shortages could be alleviated by allowing the suspended Nord Stream 2 pipeline to go into service, something the Kremlin has suggested as a solution.

Kevin Kuehnert, number two official in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, said: “I strongly suggest we spare ourselves the humiliation of always asking Putin for something that we’re not going to get.”

Speaking to the t-online website, he added: “The dependence on him has to end for once and all.”

Harvard University physicist Dr Benjamin Schmitt agreed, tweeting: “Enough.

“The US and EU should issue joint sanctions to permanently stop Russian energy export pipelines like #NordStream1, #NordStream2, and #TurkStream2.

“There can’t be a return to energy business as usual with Putin’s Kremlin.”

Dr Schmitt added: “Putin continues with false “technical” excuses for gas cuts to EU via #NordStream1.

“Here’s two actions Kremlin could take if it really wants to deliver gas (& it doesn’t).“Use turbines from supposedly ready #NordStream2.

“Send gas via alternative routes where capacity exists.”

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