France accuses Russia of weaponising energy after Gazprom cuts gas deliveries

·2-min read
© Stefan Sauer/AP

France has accused Russia of using energy supplies as "a weapon of war" after Russian gas giant Gazprom reduced deliveries to French energy utility Engie.

"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,” France's Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on French public radio Tuesday, after Engie announced it would be receiving less natural gas from Gazprom starting Tuesday.

Engie said Gazprom was cutting its deliveries "due to a disagreement between both sides over the execution of contracts".

However, it also said it has “already secured the necessary volumes to guarantee supplies for its clients and for its own needs".

Russia had already reduced its gas supplies to France in response to European Union military and diplomatic backing for Ukraine.

At the end of July, just four percent of Engie’s overall energy supply came from Russian gas, according to the group.

France relies on nuclear power for electricity, but 20 percent of its energy consumption is gas, mostly for residential heating and cooking, as well as industry. France has negotiated extra gas supplies from Norway.

Shutting down Nord Stream

Gazprom has already warned it will shut off the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the main conduit for Russian gas into Europe, from Wednesday to Friday, for maintenance.

Russia has been pumping gas in the pipeline at only 20 percent capacity, and there are fears that this week’s outage could be extended.

Europe is preparing for reduced supplies and governments are trying to find alternatives as energy costs soar.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, President Emmanuel Macron and other officials have been increasing warnings in recent days about economic difficulties over the winter due to energy shortages and rising inflation.

Macron is to gather ministers for a special cabinet meeting on Friday to "prepare for all eventualities this autumn and winter," his office said.

Economic terrorism

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday blamed Russia for taking part in economic terrorism by pushing up gas prices to weaken opposition to its invasion of Ukraine – a claim that Russia has denied.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that “technological problems” caused by Western sanctions are the only thing standing in the way of supplying gas via Nord Stream 1.

(with wires)