Since the onset of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine on February 24, the United States and its European allies have unleashed waves of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow, despite its warning that such punitive measures will eventually backfire.
Gazprom initially curtailed its gas supply to Europe – through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that transports gas from Russia to Germany – by 40 percent. Then, it cut the deliveries through the pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 percent of its capacity.
The cut marks Russia’s latest blow to European countries over their support for Ukraine. The Kremlin has already said the gas disruption is the result of maintenance issues and Western sanctions.
Russia, for months, insists that the EU countries must pay for Gazprom in rubles, not euros. However, the European bloc rejects the demand, saying there is no contractual condition for ruble payments.
“Today, Gazprom suspended its gas supplies to Latvia... due to violations of the conditions” of purchase, the company said in a statement on Telegram on Saturday, two days after the Latvian gas utility Latvijas Gaze said that it was purchasing Russian gas but paying in euros.
Although Latvia relies on Russia for natural gas imports, Russian gas only forms 26 percent of the EU member’s energy consumption.
The Russian gas producing company had earlier said that it would reduce supply to 33 million cubic meters a day - half the amount it has been delivering since service resumed last week following 10 days of maintenance work.
While the EU accused Russia for cutting supplies in retaliation for sanctions, Moscow insists that the sanctions have made the technical maintenance of the pipeline very difficult for the Russian company.
“Technical pumping capacities are down, more restricted. Why? Because the process of maintaining technical devices is made extremely difficult by the sanctions adopted by Europe,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The reductions have prompted the EU to now strive to boost gas imports from elsewhere, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Norway, Qatar and the United States.