Russia delays reopening of Nord Stream in blow to gas-starved Europe

FILE PHOTO: Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 1' gas pipline in Lubmin

(Reuters) - Russia has scrapped a Saturday deadline to resume gas flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, one of the main supply routes to Europe, after saying it discovered a fault during maintenance, deepening Europe's difficulties in securing fuel for winter.

Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and others, had been due to resume operating after a three-day halt for maintenance on Saturday at 0100 GMT.

But Gazprom, the state-controlled firm with a monopoly on Russian gas exports via pipeline, said on Friday it could no longer provide a timefrme for restarting deliveries after finding an oil leak that meant a pipeline turbine could not run safely.

Moscow has blamed sanctions, imposed by the West after Russia invaded Ukraine, for hampering routine operations and maintenance of Nord Stream 1. Brussels says this is a pretext and Russia is using gas as an economic weapon to retaliate.

European Union Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc should impose a price cap on Russian pipeline gas to foil what she said were Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempts to manipulate the market.

Gas prices have sky-rocketed, hurting European industry and households, surging first due to recovering demand after the pandemic and then rising further because of the Ukraine crisis.

"We see that the electricity market does not work anymore because it is massively disrupted due to Putin's manipulations," Von der Leyen said, adding that a gas price cap on Russian pipeline supplies could be proposed at the European level.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would turn off supplies to Europe if Brussels imposed such a cap.

Reduced deliveries via Nord Stream, alongside lower gas flows via Ukraine, another major route, have left European states struggling to refill storage tanks for winter and prompted many to trigger emergency plans that could lead to energy rationing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said earlier on Friday that there could be more disruptions to deliveries via Nord Stream 1.

"It's not the fault of Gazprom that the resources are missing. Therefore, the reliability of the entire system is at risk," he said when asked if more outages could be expected.

Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said on Wednesday that sanctions meant Siemens Energy, a pipeline equipment supplier, could not carry out regular maintenance.

Siemens Energy, which normally services Nord Stream 1 turbines, said it was not involved in maintenance work now being conducted by Gazprom. It has also said it was ready to help if needed and has said maintenance was excluded from sanctions.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Editing by Edmund Blair and Carmel Crimmins)