Europe accuses the Kremlin of using energy as "blackmail" while Gazopram says it is carrying out maintenance work, and Moscow blames Western sanctions for delays

Russia keeps Europe on tenterhooks over Nord Stream pipeline future

REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV - The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a pipe at ChelPipe Group's pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia

Russia is keeping Europe on edge over the Nord Stream gas pipeline by warning that even if flow resumes tomorrow after ten days of technical shutdown for annual maintenance work, new problems could immediately arise from the repair of turbines abroad because of sanctions.

"Planned annual maintenance work on the Nord Stream pipeline is scheduled until 04.00 GMT on the 21st," a spokesman for Switzerland-based Nord Stream AG told Efe, so in principle the flow should resume at that time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the day before that Gazprom "has always fulfilled, fulfils and intends to fulfil all its obligations".

But he also warned of possible further technical problems with the pipeline that transports Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea as early as next week.


Russia claims that Western sanctions are the cause of these difficulties, while Europe sees this argument as a mere excuse to 'blackmail' the EU.

On 14 June, Gazprom cut gas supplies through Nord Stream by 40 % to 100 million cubic metres per day, citing delays in the return of repaired pumping equipment from Siemens and technical faults in the engines.

This forced the gas company to reduce gas compressor units at the Portovaya station in the Leningrad region to three.

A day later, Gazprom reduced the gas flow by a further 33% to 67 million cubic metres per day, explaining that it had to shut down another gas turbine engine from the German company after exceeding the stipulated time between overhauls.


One of the engines shipped by Siemens to its plant in Canada was blocked there by Canadian sanctions, but the Ottawa government recently made an exception at Berlin's request to return it not to Russia but to Germany.

According to the Russian daily Kommersant, the turbine was flown from Canada to Germany on the 17th, and should arrive in Russia on the 22nd or 24th if there are no logistical and customs problems. It will then take three to four days to assemble, the newspaper said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said today that the turbine is already in transit back and "will arrive in time" for Nord Stream to resume operation.

Gazprom says, however, that it has no formal proof of permission to return the turbine and has already asked Siemens twice for official documents to certify this.


On Wednesday the gas company again warned "that the guaranteed return of the engine sent for repair under sanctions and the subsequent overhaul of other engines for Portovaya directly affect the safe operation of the pipeline".

Putin said yesterday that if the turbine is not returned, the pipeline will have to further reduce the volume of gas supplied to Europe.

"At the end of July, on the 26th, another engine should be sent for repair (abroad). Currently two turbines are working and pumping 60 million cubic metres a day. If the turbine arrives (from Canada) then fine. There will be two turbines working. But if it doesn't arrive, there will only be 30 million cubic metres a day," he said.

In his opinion, Europe wants to "shift the blame for these problems to Gazprom2" when it was the West that "closed" this route with sanctions and also the second one, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, whose certification was blocked by Germany shortly before the start of the Russian military campaign in Ukraine.

Berlin, meanwhile, today expressed its confidence that the Russian gas consortium Gazprom "will fulfil its contractual obligations" and resume gas supplies via Nord Stream.