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UKRAINE

Russian gas supply cut is an ‘attack’, says German minister

Russian energy giant Gazprom's slashing of gas supplies to Europe amounts to an "attack on us" by Moscow, the German economy minister said Tuesday.

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks at the 'Industry Day' hosted by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) on June 21st.
Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks at the 'Industry Day' hosted by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) on June 21st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

“The reduction of gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is an attack on us, an economic attack on us,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a speech.   

Gazprom said last week it would reduce supplies of the fuel to Germany via the pipeline due to delayed repairs, while the German government has called the decision “political”.

As a result of the cut, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, decided to reactivate mothballed coal power plants to reduce their gas consumption.

Germany has also mandated the filling of gas reserves to 90 percent ahead of the European winter, to hedge against a further reduction in supply.

“When we go into the winter with half full gas stores and the taps are turned off then we are talking about a difficult economic crisis in Germany,” Habeck said.

Currently, Germany’s gas storage capacity is just under 60 percent full.

“We have seen this pattern multiple times now,” Habeck said at the conference.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to “create chaos” in European gas markets by cutting off supply to Poland and Bulgaria among other European countries, the minister said.

Habeck called for the “diversification” of suppliers of raw materials and energy to achieve “a bit of independence from the malign intentions of the world’s dictators”.

Germany had a “system rivalry” with Russia and China, the minister said.

China was a “big market”, Habeck said, but urged industry to use trade to promote “our values”.

German artillery deployed in Ukraine

It came as Ukraine said Tuesday it had “finally” deployed advanced German artillery system, in the latest delivery of the long-range, precision weapons that it has been calling for.

“Panzerhaubitze 2000 are finally part of 155 mm howitzer arsenal of the Ukrainian artillery,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on social media, thanking his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht.

Germany said last month it would send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, ramping up deliveries of heavy weapons to help Kyiv battle Russia’s invasion.

The German army has about 100 howitzer 2000s in its stocks, but only 40 are combat ready.

The United States, France and other Ukraine allies have vowed further supplies of heavy weapons for Kyiv, and deliveries from Washington are due in Ukraine this month.

The West has sent weapons into Ukraine to help it fight the Kremlin forces, but Kyiv complains it has only received a fraction of what it needs and is clamouring for heavier weaponry.

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ENERGY

German gas giant reports steep losses from Russian squeeze

German energy giant Uniper on Wednesday reported heavy first-half losses which it blamed on Russia squeezing gas deliveries in the wake of the Ukraine war.

German gas giant reports steep losses from Russian squeeze

The company, which accepted a government rescue package last month, said that it had recorded a net loss in the first six months of the year of €12.3 billion ($12.5 billion).

“Uniper has for months been playing a crucial role in stabilising Germany’s gas supply at the cost of billions in losses resulting from the sharp drop in gas deliveries from Russia,” CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach said in a statement.

The German government agreed in late July to take an around 30-percent stake in Uniper, which was threatened with bankruptcy as a result of the crisis.

Maubach said on Wednesday that the bailout would “prevent a chain reaction that would do much more damage”.

READ ALSO: German government to take 30 percent stake in gas company Uniper

“Our top priority now is to swiftly implement the stabilisation package,” he added.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz interrupted his summer holiday to announce the rescue plan, calling Uniper a “company of vital importance for the economic development of our country and for the energy supply of our citizens”.

Uniper said the “volatile environment” meant that it could not provide an earnings forecast for the current financial year.

But it expected “to record negative earnings owing to the significant reduction in Russian gas deliveries”.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused turmoil in European energy markets, especially in Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

EU states have accused Russia of choking supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over the war, with Germany charging that Moscow is usingnenergy as a “weapon”.

Russia in July restored critical gas supplies to Europe through Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline after 10 days of maintenance, but at low volumes, and suspicions linger that the Kremlin may trigger an energy crisis on the continent this winter.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Germany’s alternatives to Russian gas?

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