The battle for energy between Russia and the West heats up

The battle for energy between Russia and the West heats up

An energy battle between Russia and the West over the war in Ukraine flared up on Friday as Moscow delayed the opening of its main gas pipeline to Germany and the G-7 countries announced price caps on Russian oil exports.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said it could not resume natural gas supplies to Germany just hours before it was due to resume supplies via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Russia blamed the move on a technical pipeline malfunction that is likely to exacerbate Europe’s energy crisis.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said on Twitter on Friday that Gazprom had acted under a “false pretext” to shut down the pipeline.

Turbine maker Siemens Energy said on Friday there was no technical reason to cut off natural gas supplies.

Moscow has accused Western sanctions, which came into effect after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of obstructing the gas pipeline’s service. Europe accuses Russia of using its influence over gas supplies to retaliate against European sanctions.

Also on Friday, G7 finance ministers of wealthy democracies said they would work quickly to impose a price ceiling on Russian oil exports.

FILE – A Russian construction worker speaks on the phone during a ceremony marking the start of construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in Portovaya Bay, 170km northwest of St. Petersburg, Russia, April 9, 2010. Russian energy giant Gazprom said 2 September 2022 that it cannot resume natural gas supplies via pipeline to Germany, citing the need for additional maintenance.

G-7 ministers from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States said the price cap would be determined later “based on a set of technical data.”

“This price cap on Russian oil exports is designed to reduce [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s income, closing an important source of funding for an aggressive war,” said German Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the decision of the G-7 finance ministers.

“When this mechanism is implemented, it will become an important element in protecting civilized countries and energy markets from Russian hybrid aggression,” Zelensky said in a video message on Friday evening.

The fight for control of energy supplies comes as Russian and Ukrainian forces fight near the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, where UN inspectors are trying to avert a possible catastrophe.

On Friday, the Ukrainian military said it had carried out strikes against a Russian base in the southern city of Energodar, close to a nuclear power plant.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling near the object. Kyiv also accuses Moscow of storing munitions around the plant and using it as a shield to carry out attacks, which Russia denies.

FILE - A view of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant during the Ukrainian-Russian conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Energodar in Zaporizhia region, Ukraine, August 30, 2022.

FILE – A view of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant during the Ukrainian-Russian conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Energodar in Zaporizhia region, Ukraine, August 30, 2022.

Inspectors from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the Zaporozhye plant, overcoming artillery fire to reach the facility on Thursday.

IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said he and his team saw everything they asked for at the station and were not surprised by anything, and that he would release a report on his findings early next week.

Grossi, who has since left Ukraine and spoke to reporters on Friday after arriving at Vienna airport, said: “I’m concerned about the physical integrity, the electricity supply and, of course, the staff” in Zaporozhye.

A group of 13 experts accompanied Grossi to Ukraine, and, according to him, six remained in Zaporozhye. Of those six, two will remain until the cessation of hostilities, which Grossi says will make a huge difference.

“If anything happens or there is any restriction, they will report it – let us know,” Grossi said. “It’s no longer a question of ‘A said this and B said the opposite.’ Now the IAEA is there.”

The Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom on Friday accused Russia of “doing its best” to prevent the IAEA mission from learning the real situation at the facility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his Thursday night address: “Ukraine has done everything to make this mission happen. But it’s bad that the occupiers are trying to turn this IAEA mission – a really necessary one – into a fruitless tour of the station.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, who led the inspection team, told reporters on Thursday that the agency is “establishing our permanent presence” at Europe’s largest nuclear facility. According to him, it is obvious that the “physical integrity” of the Zaporozhye plant “was violated several times.”

Grossi said: “I was worried, I am worried and will continue to worry about the plant.”

The Zaporozhye plant has been controlled by Russia since the early days of its invasion, but it employs Ukrainian engineers.

Since the nuclear plant is located in a war zone, world leaders have expressed fear that it could be damaged and lead to a radiation disaster similar to the one that occurred at the Ukrainian Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.

Margaret Beshear of VOA contributed to this report. Some information came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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