Europe’s energy crisis escalated as Russian natural-gas giant Gazprom said it would halt supplies to French utility Engie because of a disagreement over payments.
France accused Moscow on Tuesday of using energy supplies as “a weapon of war” after Russia’s Gazprom cut deliveries to a major French customer and said it would shut its main gas pipeline to Germany for three days this week.
European governments are trying to coordinate a response to soaring energy costs for businesses and households and to fill storage facilities ahead of peak demand in the winter.
Gazprom has notified Engie about a full cutoff of gas from Sept. 1 as the utility hasn’t paid in full for July deliveries, the Russian gas producer said in a statement. Earlier, Gazprom said it would reduce gas supplies starting Tuesday. It also plans to shut the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany for three days of maintenance beginning Wednesday.
Moscow has progressively choked fuel shipments to Europe in retaliation for sanctions related to its invasion of Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that technical problems caused by Western sanctions on Russia are the only thing standing in the way of supplying gas via Nord Stream 1.
Nord Stream 1, the main conduit for Russian gas into Europe, has become a flash point in the dispute.
Russia has been pumping gas via Nord Stream 1 at only 20% of capacity and there are fears that this week’s outage could be extended.
Asked if there are guarantees that Gazprom will restart gas flows via Nord Stream 1, the Kremlin’s Peskov said: “There are guarantees that, apart from technological problems caused by sanctions, nothing hinders the supplies.”
France’s Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said: “Very clearly Russia is using gas as a weapon of war and we must prepare for the worst case scenario of a complete interruption of supplies.”
French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher accused Moscow of using its gas exports as a weapon on Tuesday. She also said France “must prepare for the worst-case scenario of a complete interruption of supplies.” Her statement was made before the Gazprom announcement.
Gazprom’s move follows Monday’s call from French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne for businesses to cut energy use or face possible rationing this winter if Russia halts gas deliveries. A much higher than usual number of outages at Electricite de France SA’s aging nuclear reactors is also straining the energy market, sending gas and electricity prices in Europe to record highs.
On Monday, Engie Executive Vice President Claire Waysand said that France had its storage filled up by 90%, adding that it should be enough to get through the winter.