Gazprom has declared “force majeure” for gas supplies to Europe, stoking fears of a full shutdown that could lead to energy shortages across the continent this winter.
Russia’s state-controlled energy giant wrote in a letter to at least one European customer that it could no longer meet its delivery commitments due to “extraordinary” circumstances beyond its control.
The Kremlin, hit by Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, has sought to cut gas supplies to Europe to pressure governments to relax sanctions.
Panicked EU governments are already bracing for the possibility of a “winter of separation” without their usual Russian fossil fuels to heat homes and keep factories open.
It came as Russia’s defense minister ordered its forces to prioritize strikes at precision weapons that have crippled efforts to restart the stalled Donbass offensive.
During a visit to Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, Sergei Shoigu urged soldiers to focus on “destroying” US mobile rocket launchers, which are credited with hitting more than a dozen Russian ammunition depots deep behind their lines.
Away from the battlefield, European governments have accused Moscow of “weaponizing” the gas supply in a bid to further deepen the continent’s cost-of-living crisis.
EU diplomats believe the Kremlin is trying to use a “divide and rule” tactic to trick individual member states struggling with ever-rising gas prices, which the Kremlin says is due to Western sanctions.
Last week, the Gazprom-operated Nord Stream 1 pipeline was shut down for 10 days for maintenance, raising fears that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, could simply order the taps shut off. According to an internal EU analysis, the pipeline is to “come back on the grid with a reduced capacity in order to keep gas prices as high as possible for the EU”.
Sources said the letter sent by Gazprom relates to Nord Stream 1, which has not been running at full capacity since mid-June after a turbine being renovated in Canada was prevented from shutting down due to sanctions against Russia.
The memo said the force majeure clause, a measure invoked when a company is hit by something outside its control, will apply to deliveries from March 14.
“Force Majeure” refers to unexpected external events, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters, that prevent a company from fulfilling its obligations under a contract.
Ottawa has since agreed to send the component to Germany amid fears that without Russian gas supplies Berlin could be shut down this winter.
However, this has raised fears that other European governments may consider flouting Western sanctions to protect their economies.
For the first time yesterday, Vladimir Putin acknowledged that Western sanctions are having a “colossal” impact on Russia’s high-tech sector.
He said the measures were a “great challenge for our country” and vowed to “search energetically and competently for new solutions”.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin faced further battlefield difficulties in its attempt to resume the stalled offensive in Ukraine’s Donbass region. Footage shared on social media showed a huge explosion over the small town of Nova Kakhovka, which Ukrainian sources said was a hit at a Russian ammunition depot. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/fears-grow-of-a-complete-cut-off-of-gas-to-europe-as-moscow-accused-of-divide-and-rule-tactic-41850174.html Fears of a complete disruption in gas supplies to Europe are growing as Moscow is accused of ‘divide and conquer’ tactics