BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL OCT 12, 2022
A sign reading “Nord Stream 2 Committed. Reliable. Safe.” hangs above a painted map of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany at the natural gas receiving station in Lubmin, Germany, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo)
Russia could redirect supplies intended for the damaged Nord Stream pipeline to the Black Sea to create a major European gas hub in Türkiye, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
An investigation is underway into explosions last month that ruptured the Russian-built Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines on the bed of the Baltic Sea.
Addressing a Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow, Putin said it was possible to repair the pipelines but that Russia and Europe should decide their fate.
“We could move the lost volumes along the Nord Streams along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea region and thus make the main routes for the supply of our fuel, our natural gas to Europe through Türkiye, creating the largest gas hub for Europe in Türkiye,” Putin said.
“That is, of course, if our partners are interested in this. And economic feasibility, of course.”
Putin’s call for a gas hub in Türkiye was echoed by Alexei Miller, head of Russian state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom.
Miller said the hub could be set up on the European Union border with Türkiye.
Putin again charged that the U.S. was likely behind the explosions that ripped through both links of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and one of the two links of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, causing a massive gas leak and taking them out of service.
Three of the Nord Stream pipelines are damaged. That leaves only one line of Nord Stream 2, which has an annual capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters, functional.
Putin said that Russian gas could still be supplied to Europe through one remaining intact part of the Nord Stream 2 but the ball was now in the EU’s court on whether it wanted that to happen.
Miller said that the damaged Nord Stream pipelines would take at least a year and that Russia had still not been granted access to the area of damage.
One of the two links of the Nord Stream 2 has remained pressurized and appears to be ready for service, Putin said. He noted that if checks prove that the pipeline is safe to operate, Russia stands ready to use it to pump gas to Europe.
“It is possible to repair gas pipelines running along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, but this will only make sense if they are further economically justified,” he said, adding that the security of the pipeline would have to be ensured.
“And there is one branch of the Nord Stream-2, apparently which survived,” Putin said. “Russia is ready to start such deliveries, the ball, as they say, is in the court of the European Union.”
The pipelines, which have become a flashpoint in the Ukraine crisis, have been leaking gas into the Baltic Sea off the coast of Denmark and Sweden.
The U.S. has previously rejected similar allegations by Putin. Several European governments said the undersea explosions were likely caused by sabotage that Moscow quickly sought to pin on the West, suggesting the United States stood to gain.
The Russian leader has repeatedly taunted the West by raising the prospect of sending gas through Nord Stream 2, a political nonstarter for the German government and others.
Reaffirming a claim that he made last week, Putin on Wednesday said that the attack on the pipelines was launched by those who wanted to weaken Europe by halting the flow of cheap gas from Russia.
“The act of sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 is an act of international terrorism aimed at undermining energy security of the entire continent by blocking supplies of cheap energy,” he said, alleging that the U.S. wants to force Europe to switch to importing more expensive liquefied natural gas.
“Those who want to rupture ties between Russia and the EU are behind the acts of sabotage on the Nord Stream,” he said.
While Russia is still pumping gas to Europe via Ukraine, the explosions on the Baltic pipelines have exacerbated the acute energy shortages faced by Europe before the winter season.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has never brought natural gas to Europe because Germany prevented the flows from ever starting just before Russia launched military action in Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Before the explosions, Russia had cut off the parallel Nord Stream 1 pipeline at the center of an energy standoff with Europe. Russia has blamed technical problems for the stoppage, but European leaders call it an attempt to divide them over their support for Ukraine.
Plunging Russian gas supplies have caused prices to soar, driving inflation, pressuring governments to help ease the pain of sky-high energy bills for households and businesses and raising fears of rationing and recession.
Putin again scoffed at Western plans to cap prices for Russian energy exports, saying that “Russia won’t act against common sense and pay the other’s welfare.”
“We won’t supply energy to the countries that would cap the prices,” he said. “I would like to warn those, who instead of business partnership and market mechanisms try to use con tricks and blunt blackmail, that we won’t do anything to our own detriment.”