Russia announces a full halt of gas flows to Europe through a key pipeline on day 191 of the conflict, while fighting continues around a nuclear plant where some UN inspectors are on a visit.

Gas prices have sky-rocketed, hurting European industry and households, surging first due to recovering demand after the pandemic and then rising further because of the Ukraine crisis.
Gas prices have sky-rocketed, hurting European industry and households, surging first due to recovering demand after the pandemic and then rising further because of the Ukraine crisis. (Reuters)

Friday, September 2, 2022

US: Russia using energy as a weapon

Moscow is using energy as a tool to pressure Europe, the White House has said about the delayed return of Gazprom's Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline, as Europe gets closer to a ban on oil imports from Russia.

"It is unfortunately not surprising that Russia continues to use energy as a weapon against European consumers," a National Security Council spokesperson told the Reuters news agency in an email about the shutdown of the pipeline that sends gas to Europe.

Russia halted gas deliveries to Germany for an indefinite period, after saying on Friday it had found problems in a key piece of equipment, a development that will worsen Europe's energy crisis. Moscow scrapped a Saturday deadline to resume flows on the line, deepening Europe's problems in securing fuel for the upcoming winter.

Gazprom says gas pipeline to Europe shut until turbine repaired

Russia's Gazprom has said natural gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, one of the main supply routes to Europe, will remain shut off after the main gas turbine at Portovaya compressor station near St Petersburg was found to have an "oil leak".

It said the turbine could not operate safely until the leak was repaired, and gave no timeframe for the resumption of gas supplies via the pipeline to Germany.

Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and others, was running at 20 percent capacity even before flows were halted for three days this week for maintenance. Deliveries were due to resume on Saturday at 0100 GMT.

Russia says it will stop selling oil to countries that set price caps

The Kremlin has said Russia will stop selling oil to countries that impose price caps on Russia's energy resources.

"Companies that impose a price cap will not be among the recipients of Russian oil," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call. "We simply will not cooperate with them on non-market principles," Peskov said.

The European Union earlier this year imposed a partial ban on Russian oil purchases. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday it was time for the EU to consider a similar price cap on Russian gas purchases.

Peskov said it was European citizens who were paying the price for such moves, imposed in response to Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.Russia was studying how a price ceiling on its oil exports might affect its economy, Peskov said.

Energy markets are at fever pitch. This is mainly in Europe, where anti-Russian measures have led to a situation where Europe is buying liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States for a lot of money — unjustified money. US companies are getting richer and European taxpayers are getting poorer

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov

G7 to implement Russian oil price cap 'urgently'

G7 industrialised powers have said they will "urgently" move towards the implementation of a price cap on Russian oil imports, in order to stop Moscow from raking in huge profits from soaring energy prices.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven advanced nations said in a statement they would "urgently work on the finalisation and implementation" of the measure, without specifying the cap level.

The initial price cap would be set "at a level based on a range of technical inputs" they said, adding that its effectiveness would be "closely monitored". G7 leaders agreed in late June to work towards implementing the ceiling on crude sales.

A G7 official in July explained that the maximum price would remain above the cost of the production, so it would not make economic sense for Moscow to deny oil to importing countries.

EU's von der Leyen backs price cap on Russian pipeline gas

Europe needs to impose a price cap on Russian pipeline gas, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said, to foil what she said were Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempts to manipulate the bloc's energy market.

She also called for measures to skim off some windfall profits that electricity suppliers have made from the gas crisis, using the money to support vulnerable citizens and companies.

"I firmly believe that it is now time for a price cap on Russian pipeline gas to Europe," von der Leyen told reporters. "A gas price cap can be proposed at European level, and there also is a legal foundation at European level to skim profits temporarily as an emergency measure at a time of crisis," she added.

Ukraine says bombed town housing Russian-held nuclear plant

Ukraine says it has bombed a Russian base in the town of Energodar, where UN inspectors are visiting a Russian-occupied nuclear plant amid safety concerns.

"Targeted strikes by our troops in the localities of Energodar and Kherson have destroyed three artillery systems of the enemy as well as an ammunition depot," the Ukrainian army said.

Arrival of UN inspectors at nuclear plant very positive: Kremlin

The Kremlin says it views as "very positive" the arrival of inspectors from the UN atomic agency at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.

"In general, we are very positive about the fact that, despite all the difficulties and problems...the commission arrived and started to work," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He added, however, that it was "too early" to evaluate the UN team's work. "The main thing is that the mission is there," he said.

A team of inspectors led by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi on Thursday visited Zaporizhzhia — Europe's largest nuclear facility — that has been held by Russian troops since early March. Several members of the IAEA team remained at the plant after Thursday's visit.

Disconnected reactor of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant back on Ukraine's grid

The fifth reactor of Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was reconnected to Ukraine's grid on Friday, a day after it shut down due to shelling near the site, Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom said.

"At present two reactor blocks are working at the station, generating electricity for the needs of Ukraine," Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that the fifth reactor had been reconnected at 1.10pm local time (1010 GMT).

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, was occupied by Russian troops in March, but continues to be operated by Ukrainian engineers despite repeated shelling on its territory, for which Kiev and Moscow blame each other.

Fourteen Ukrainian service personnel returned in fresh exchange

Fourteen Ukrainian service personnel have been returned to Ukraine in a new prisoner exchange, Ukraine's POW co-ordination centre said on Friday.

The centre did not specify who was released in return. One of the released Ukrainian POWs was an officer, and another a medic, the coordination centre said.

Russia warns US of sending long-range weapons to Ukraine

A senior Russian diplomat has sternly warned Washington against supplying long-range weapons to Ukraine, noting that the US is balancing on the edge of direct involvement in the conflict.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also pointed to the country's military doctrine that envisages the use of nuclear weapons in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian state.

“We have repeatedly warned the US about the consequences that may follow if the US continues to flood Ukraine with weapons," Ryabkov said. “It effectively puts itself in a state close to what can be described as a party to the conflict.”

World food prices fall for fifth month in a row: UN

World food prices have fallen for a fifth consecutive month, partly thanks to the resumption of exports from Ukraine's Black Sea ports, a UN agency has said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) food price index, which tracks the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, has been falling steadily since hitting an all-time high in March following Russia's offensive against Ukraine.

There was a moderate decline of 1.9 percent in August. Vegetable oils have fallen below their level a year ago, after a 3.3 percent drop. The FAO cereals index fell by 1.4 percent, driven by a 5.1 percent drop in international wheat prices. But global wheat prices were still 10.6 percent above their values in August last year, the FAO said.

Türkiye says six more grain ships left Ukraine under Istanbul deal

Six more ships have left Ukrainian ports under the Istanbul grain export deal, the Turkish National Defence Ministry has said.

A ministry statement, which did not disclose either its point of departure or destination, said shipments from Ukrainian ports are continuing as planned.

Türkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which paused after the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted in February.

Since the first vessel sailed under the Türkiye-brokered deal on August 1, more than 65 ships have carried over 1 million tons of agricultural products from Ukraine.

Woman detained for telling Russia whereabouts of husband's army unit: Ukraine

A 31-year-old woman from eastern Ukraine has been detained on accusations of sending the locations of her soldier husband's unit and other army assets to Russian military intelligence, Ukraine's State Security Service (SBU) has said.

The unnamed woman from Dnipropetrovsk region passed on information about the locations of military buildings and equipment along frontline positions in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, the SBU wrote on Telegram.

"She would pass the information she received through messenger applications to Russian military intelligence, where it was used for artillery and air strikes," its statement said.

"She took this step despite the fact that she is married to a serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and that they have a son together," the agency said.

Currently 'difficult' for IAEA to impartially assess nuclear plant: Ukraine

Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom has said that it would be "difficult" for the United Nations' nuclear watchdog to make an impartial assessment of the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to Russian interference.

Energoatom also said the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which arrived at the power station on Thursday, had not been allowed to enter the plant's crisis centre, where Ukraine says Russia has stationed troops.

"The Russians did not allow the mission to enter (the plant's) crisis centre, where Russian military personnel (are) currently stationed, whom the IAEA representatives were not supposed to see," Energoatom wrote on Telegram.

Norwegian energy group Equinor completes Russia exit

Equinor has completed its exit from Russia, the Norwegian energy group said, delivering on a promise made after Russia's assault on Ukraine in February.

This marks the first full, orderly exit from Russia by an international oil and gas company as pressure to leave mounts on others, such as TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil.

G7 finance chiefs seen advancing Russian oil price cap plan

Group of Seven finance ministers are expected to firm up plans to impose a price cap on Russian oil aimed at slashing revenues for Moscow's war in Ukraine but keeping crude flowing to avoid price spikes, G7 officials said.

The ministers from the club of wealthy industrial democracies are due to meet virtually and are seen as likely to issue a communique that lays out their implementation plans.

"A deal is likely," a European G7 official said, adding that it was unclear how much detail would be revealed , such as the per-barrel level of the price cap, above which complying countries would refuse insurance and finance to Russian crude and oil product cargoes.

For live updates from Thursday (September 1), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies