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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the flow of Russian natural gas to European customers has dwindled due to the West's own fault and warned that it could continue ebbing.
Putin's statement further cranked up pressure on the European Union, which fears Russia could cut off gas to wreak economic and political havoc in Europe in the winter.
Speaking to Russian reporters in Tehran, where he attended the talks with the leaders of Iran and Turkey, Putin said the amount of gas pumped through the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany will fall further from 60 million to 30 million cubic meters a day, or about one fifth of its capacity, if a turbine isn't quickly replaced.
He added that Russia could launch the recently completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that has never entered service, but noted that it would only have half of its designated capacity because the rest has been used for domestic needs.
The Russian leader also warned the West that its plan to cap the prices of Russian oil as part of its sanctions over Ukraine will destabilize the global oil market and make prices soar.
“We are hearing some crazy ideas about restricting the volumes of Russian oil and capping the Russian oil price,” he said. “The result will be the same — a rise in prices. Prices will skyrocket.”
Since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine in February, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year but did not include natural gas because the 27-nation bloc depends on it to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes.
However, Russia's Gazprom state-controlled natural gas giant reduced gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 60% last month, citing technical problems after a turbine that Siemens sent to Canada for overhaul couldn’t be returned because of sanctions. Canada and Germany made a deal to return the turbine, but Putin said Tuesday that Gazprom still hasn't received the relevant documents.
The Russian leader said that Gazprom was to shut another turbine for repairs in late July, and if the one that was sent to Canada isn't returned by that time the flow of gas will ebb even more.
He also pointed out at Ukraine closing a branch of a transit pipeline carrying the Russian gas to the West that comes via the territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists as another reason behind the dwindling Russian gas flow to Europe.
German and other European leaders have rejected the Russian arguments, saying the reductions in gas supplies were political. The EU fears that Russia will cut off gas to try to wreak economic and political havoc in Europe this winter.
Putin, in turn, insisted that “Gazprom has always fulfilled and will fulfill all of its obligations,” charging that “our partners are trying to shift the blame for their own mistakes to Gazprom without any basis.”