Russia suspends gas supply to Latvia
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Moscow (AFP) – Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended gas supplies to Latvia on Saturday following tensions between Moscow and the West over the conflict in Ukraine and the scale of EU and US sanctions against Russia.
The statement came a day after Moscow and Kyiv accused each other of bombing a prison holding Ukrainian prisoners of war in Russian-held territory, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying more than 50 people had been killed and calling war crime attack.
“Gazprom today suspended gas deliveries to Latvia (…) due to breaches of purchase conditions,” the company said on Telegram.
Gazprom drastically reduced its gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream gas pipeline on Wednesday to around 20% of its capacity.
The Russian state-owned company earlier said it would cut supply to 33 million cubic meters a day, half the amount it has been delivering since resuming service last week after 10 days of maintenance work .
EU states have accused Russia of cutting supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.
Gazprom cited the shutdown of one of the pipeline’s last two operating turbines due to “the technical condition of the engine”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed EU sanctions for the limited supply.
“Technical pumping capabilities are down, more restricted. Why? Because the process of maintaining technical devices is made extremely difficult by the sanctions adopted by Europe,” Peskov said.
“Gazprom was and remains a reliable guarantor of its obligations (…) but it cannot guarantee the pumping of gas if the imported devices cannot be maintained because of European sanctions”, he said.
The European Union this week approved a plan to reduce gas consumption in solidarity with Germany, where the Nord Stream gas pipeline passes, warning against Russian “blackmail”.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday accused Ukraine of hitting a prison in Russian-held territory with long-range missiles supplied by the United States, in a “blatant provocation” intended to prevent captured soldiers from escaping. to return.
He said the dead included Ukrainian forces who had surrendered after weeks of fighting Russia’s brutal bombardment of the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol.
Zelensky blamed Russia squarely.
“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian POWs,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation Friday night. “More than 50 died.”
Zelensky said a deal for Azovstal fighters to lay down their arms, brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, included guarantees for their health and safety and called on both organizations to intervene , as guarantors.
Zelensky also urged the international community, particularly the United States, to have Russia officially declared a state sponsor of terrorism.
“A decision is needed, needed now,” he said.
In a sign of Washington’s continued support for Kyiv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Friday for the first time since the conflict began, urging Moscow not to annex any more Ukrainian-occupied territory. Russian forces.
“It was very important for the Russians to hear directly from us that this will not be accepted – and not only will it not be accepted, but it will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it continues,” Blinken told reporters in Washington.
Zelensky traveled to a port in southern Ukraine on Friday to oversee a ship loaded with grain for export as part of a UN-backed plan to ship millions of tonnes of stranded Ukrainian grain by the Russian naval blockade to world markets.
In another development, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Ukraine’s long-term debt rating by three notches on Friday, saying a recently announced plan to defer payments means default is “virtually a certainty.” .
Last week, a group of Western countries gave the go-ahead to Kyiv’s request to defer interest payments on its debt and called on other creditors to do the same.
© 2022 AFP