Russia fury: Troops descend on EU doorstep as tensions boil over: ‘Will not be pressured!’

Putin given 'vast power' over European economies says expert

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Gazprom, the state-owned Russian gas company, yesterday claimed an industry summit that it is not responsible for Europe’s energy crisis. The gas giant transits gas through Russian pipelines into Europe, and had decreased supplies which hiked up prices to record highs. This hit Ukraine particularly hard.

Back in October, Ukraine called on the US and Germany to slap sanctions down on Gazprom.

It came after the energy supplier implemented a transit deal with Hungary that deprives Kyiv of gas supplies.

Yuriy Vitrenko, the head of Ukraine’s Naftogaz has hit out at Mr Putin, claiming he is using his new gas pipeline as a “geopolitical weapon”.

Nord Stream 2, which awaits approval from German regulators before gas flow begins, will transit gas from Russia to Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

And Mr Putin’s critics say he has decreased flow from other pipelines to speed up certification of Nord Stream 2 and avoid EU rules applying to the system.

Mr Vitrenko said: “The Kremlin is doing this on purpose. It’s not even sabre rattling, it’s the obvious use of gas as a weapon.”

“A joint statement from the US and Germany said that if the Kremlin used gas as a weapon, there would be an appropriate response.

“We are now waiting for the imposition of sanctions on a 100 percent subsidiary of Gazprom, the operator of Nord Stream 2.”

But Mr Putin and Gazprom have repeatedly denied claims that they are purposefully withholding gas, and say they have honoured long-term contracts they are held to.

Despite this, Mr Putin instructed Gazprom chief to boost inventories at its facilities in Germany and Austria starting November 8, when domestic storage sites will be full.

But Russia and Gazprom still deny they were responsible for rising prices in the first place.

And even though Russia could step in earlier, it declined to book extra capacity to ship more gas to Europe from January at auctions on Tuesday.

The move would have helped ease prices in a volatile market in Mr Putin’s tight control.

Deputy CEO Elena Burmistrova said: “There has been some inaccurate reporting and speculation about Gazprom’s actions.

“We do not receive any pressure to sell as much as we can in the short term. It would undermine the markets predictability, both for us and for our customers.”

“Misunderstandings on Gazprom’s long-term strategies often lead to the wrong perception of the company’s actions and interests.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has also said Russia fulfilled all its obligations under existing natural gas contracts with Ukraine.

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When asked about Ukraine’s complaints, he said: “There have been and will be accusations against Russia, the majority of which are politicised.

“The main thing in this situation is that we are consistently fulfilling our obligations.”

But now, after being hit with the claims, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have soared as Russian armed forces were recently sent to hold a series of large-scale drills by the Russia-Ukraine border.

Russia has denied the media reports that it is massing military units in the region, but commercial satellite photos taken on Monday appear to confirm recent reports.

Mr Peskov told reporters that they shouldn’t “waste time” on such “low-quality” claims.

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