Russia Announces Deeper Cuts in Natural Gas Flows to Germany

BERLIN — Russia’s state-owned gas monopoly, Gazprom, said on Monday that it would further reduce the amount of natural gas it sends to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, less than a week after it resumed limited flows after an annual maintenance shutdown.

Flows had already been cut back to 40 percent of capacity, but Gazprom said that it would crimp them to 20 percent starting Wednesday, citing problems with one of the powerful turbines that are manufactured by the German company Siemens Energy. The turbines build pressure within the pipeline to ship the gas long distances.

In mid-June Russia started cutting the amount of gas shipped through the 760-mile undersea pipeline, blaming the reduction on a missing turbine that had been shipped to Canada for repairs.

On Monday, Gazprom said on its social media accounts that it was “shutting down one more gas turbine engine produced by Siemens.”

Germany’s economy ministry has all along rejected Gazprom’s argument that a damaged turbine was to blame for restrictions in gas flows, saying instead that the cutbacks were another way for Russia to punish Europe for opposing the war in Ukraine.

The Berlin government pushed back against Gazprom’s latest projected cut.

“Based on our information there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries,” the German economy ministry said in a statement that followed Gazprom’s announcement.

Observers said the move smacked of President Vladimir V. Putin’s intention to use Russia’s energy exports as a cudgel to punish and divide European leaders by loosening or tightening the taps as it suits him and his war aims in Ukraine.

“Gazprom’s announcement should not surprise,” said Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Bruegel, a think tank based in Brussels. “Russia is playing a strategic game here. Fluctuating already low flows is better than a full cutoff as it manipulates the market and optimizes geopolitical impact.”

European Union energy ministers are meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to get citizens and businesses of the 27-member bloc to save energy. But divisions have emerged as countries that do not rely heavily on Russian gas, such as Greece and Spain, have chafed at the idea of needing to cut consumption to help Germany, their wealthy northern partner.

In his nightly address on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called the unfolding crisis an “overt gas war” against a “united” Europe, one that Moscow deliberately timed. “These are just different forms of terror,” he said.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany relied on Russia to provide 55 percent of its overall natural gas needs. It has cut that share to 30 percent over the past four months, but is scrambling to save enough of the fuel to ensure that it will have sufficient stores to get through the winter.

Hours before Gazprom announced the fresh cuts, the head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Müller, said the country’s storage facilities had reached 65.9 percent capacity and were therefore “finally back on track.” The goal is for storage to be 75 percent full by the beginning of September.

Gazprom’s announcement should have made it clear to all European Union members how crucial it is that they move quickly and decisively to start saving gas, Mr. Tagliapietra said. “Action on this cannot be delayed anymore.”

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