President Vladimir Putin dismissed suggestions that Russia is using energy as a weapon as “complete nonsense”, as he announced he was ready to provide more gas to Europe if necessary.
During his address at the Russian Energy Week International Forum in Moscow, the Russian leader said that the country was ready to increase its supplies to Europe at a time when other producers were reducing theirs.
He also pointed to the Soviet Union’s continued supply of gas to Europe during the Cold War, when relations were at an all-time low.
He said Russia was ready to increase gas supplies further in line with requests and would also increase gas transit via Ukraine this year.
“If they [Europe] ask us to increase further, we are ready to increase further,” said Mr Putin. “We will increase by as much as our partners ask us. There is no refusal, none.”
But he said the idea that Russia would continue to pipe gas via Ukraine after 2024 is an economic question, adding it is difficult to make promises on gas transit if Europe plans to cut its hydrocarbon usage.
Gas prices in Europe have hit record levels this month, but the Kremlin has insisted Russia is not deliberately withholding supplies in order to exert pressure for quick regulatory approval of the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea to Germany.
Mr Putin described the accusation that Moscow was using energy as a political weapon as “complete nonsense”.
He revealed the EU’s plans for a cross-border carbon tax, adding the country would continue to cooperate with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) once oil output returns to pre-crisis levels.
Earlier, the president’s spokesman said that the Russian gas giant Gazprom was supplying gas to Europe at maximum levels under existing contracts, confirming that any increase would need to be negotiated with the company.
“Nothing can be delivered beyond the contracts,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “How? For free? It is a matter of negotiating with Gazprom.”
Mr Putin also revealed he has not discussed oil markets with US President Joe Biden but has working relations with his counterpart and is hopeful that ties between Moscow and Washington will improve.
He added that the volatility on oil markets and surging prices were not in Russia’s interests, but that an oil price of $100 (£74) a barrel was quite possible.
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