FRANKFURT: Russia scrapped a Saturday deadline to resume flows via a major gas supply route to Europe after saying it had discovered a fault in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline during maintenance, deepening Europe’s difficulties in securing fuel for winter.

Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and others, had been due to resume operating on Saturday at 0100 GMT after a three-day halt for maintenance.

But Gazprom, the state-controlled firm with a monopoly on Russian gas exports via pipeline, said on Friday it could not safely restart deliveries until it had fixed an oil leak found in a vital pipeline turbine. It did not give a new timeframe.

Moscow has blamed sanctions, imposed by the West after Russia invaded Ukraine, for hampering routine operations and maintenance of Nord Stream 1. Brussels says this is a pretext and Russia is using gas as an economic weapon to retaliate.

“This is part of Russia’s psychological war against us,” tweeted Michael Roth, chair of the German parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

Earlier, European Union Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc should impose a price cap on Russian pipeline gas to foil what she said were Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to manipulate the market.

Wholesale gas prices have rocketed 400% since August 2021, hurting European industry and households, surging first due to recovering demand after the pandemic and then rising further because of the Ukraine crisis.

“We see that the electricity market does not work anymore because it is massively disrupted due to Putin’s manipulations,” Von der Leyen said, adding that a gas price cap on Russian pipeline supplies could be proposed at the European level.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would turn off supplies to Europe if Brussels imposed such a cap.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2022

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