“Russia does not use any weapons,” Putin said. “Even in the toughest period of the Cold War, Russia regularly fulfilled its contractual obligations and supplied natural gas to Europe,” he added.
The last time Russia suspended natural gas exports to the EU was in January 2009 because it failed to reach an agreement with Ukraine on prices and pipeline transit tariffs. Due to price disputes, it also temporarily reduced the flow of natural gas to Ukraine in 2006 and 2008.
Putin’s tone on Wednesday was more conciliatory, saying that Russia was “prepared to discuss any additional measures with European governments” to deal with the worsening energy crisis.
“Russia has perfectly fulfilled its contractual obligations to our partners, including our partners in Europe,” he said. “In addition, we always strive to meet with our partners.”
According to data from the European Commission, wholesale electricity prices in Europe have increased by 200% compared to the 2019 average. The reason for the spike is the soaring cost of natural gas, which is due to strong demand in Asia and lower-than-expected deliveries from Russia.
According to Eurostat data, most EU countries rely on gas-fired power stations to meet their electricity demand, and about 40% of the natural gas comes from Russia.
Last month, the International Energy Agency called on Russia to supply more natural gas to Europe to help alleviate the crisis, stating that although Russia is fulfilling its contractual obligations to European customers, its exports are lower than 2019 levels.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Russia has increased the supply of natural gas to Europe to the maximum possible level under existing contracts and cannot exceed these thresholds.
Russian officials have previously stated that accelerating approval of the controversial Beixi 2 pipeline connecting Russia and Germany may help reduce natural gas prices. Despite years of opposition from countries including the United States, the pipeline was completed last month, and the United States warned that it would increase Moscow’s influence in Europe.
The Biden administration announced in July that it had reached an agreement with Berlin to allow the pipeline to continue in exchange for German assistance to Ukraine. It is now awaiting approval from the German authorities.
The European Commission announced on Wednesday a series of measures aimed at responding to the energy crisis, including accelerating the transition to renewable energy.
EU member states have taken a series of emergency measures to help consumers and companies cope with the high electricity bills over the past decade, including direct financial support to households, state assistance to companies, and targeted tax cuts.
-Amy Cassidy, Chris Liakos, Walé Azeez and Katharina Krebs contributed reporting to this article.