The Daily Telegraph

Kremlin insists gas pipeline will ‘balance’ high prices

Opening Nord Stream 2 would ease soaring energy demand across Europe, Moscow claims

- By Pjotr Sauer in Moscow and Roland Oliphant

THE Kremlin yesterday called for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be opened up “as fast as possible” to balance soaring gas prices in Europe.

The state-owned energy giant Gazprom last week announced the “full completion” of the £8billion pipeline, which critics say will enhance Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and make it vulnerable to political bullying.

However, commercial deliveries cannot begin until German and European regulators sign off on the project, which could take until spring.

Natural gas prices in Europe and the UK have soared to record highs as the recovery in demand from the worst of the coronaviru­s lockdowns collided with low levels of wind power and gas supply constraint­s. Britain’s energy supply crunch was yesterday worsened when a fire knocked out a facility in Kent that stores electricit­y brought in from France via an undersea cable.

“There is a great demand for gas, [and] it is not clear what winter will be like. In case of cold weather, of course, even more gas will be needed,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told journalist­s.

“Without a doubt, the fastest possible commission­ing of Nord Stream 2 will significan­tly balance price parameters for natural gas in Europe,” he added.

Despite spare capacity available, experts say Russia has been unwilling to supply Europe with additional gas that could ease some of the pressure of demand currently being felt.

Gazprom faces high demand at home and from Asia for liquefied natural gas.

Some analysts have suggested the Kremlin sees record gas prices as an opportunit­y for Gazprom to pressure its Western partners to speed up approval for Nord Stream 2 to go online.

“While Russia has been fulfilling its contractua­l obligation­s with the West, it has not been eager to capitalise on the demand and send additional gas to its European clients,” said Maria Shagina, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Eastern European Studies.

“With such unusual demand for gas and the winter coming soon, Russia will feel like they can dictate the rules a little to Germany. This doesn’t happen very often.”

Running from Russia’s Baltic shore to north-eastern Germany, the underwater, 745-mile pipeline follows the same route as Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has divided European countries and caused tensions between Germany and the US.

The US, Britain and central European government­s, including Poland and the Baltic states, lobbied Germany to ditch the project, which they see as a political scheme designed to make Europe more dependent on Russian gas and increase leverage on Ukraine by cutting it out as an energy transit country.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, tried to assuage concerns, saying she had made it clear to Vladimir Putin that Ukraine must remain a transit country for Russian gas.

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