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Gas flows again via Nord Stream 1, supply concerns eased

Nord Stream 1, the biggest pipeline connecting Russia and Germany, was pumping Russian gas again on Thursday after a 10-day break that caused panic amongst German authorities and prompted the EU structures to consider additional safety measures.

The first nugget of this information was published by the pipeline operator itself. On the Nord Stream AG website, physical flows were at 21,388,236 kwh/h for 06:00-07:00 CET (04:00-05:00 GMT), from zero previously.

A spokesperson for the operator told Reuters that the resumption in gas flows could take several hours.

For its part, a spokesperson for Austria’s OMV said Gazprom had signalled it would deliver around 50 percent of agreed gas volumes on Thursday, levels seen before the shutdown.

Annual maintenance of the NS1 pipeline kept Europe on guard, as it was feared that the works could have been nothing but alleged Russian blackmail in the economic tit-for-tat over the war in Ukraine.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, describing a full cut-off of Russian gas flows as “a likely scenario” for which “Europe needs to be ready”.

The possibility of Russia extending the maintenance period indefinitely prompted the European Union to tell member states on Wednesday to cut gas usage by 15 percent until March as an emergency step. Some governments started compiling action plans to respond to the potential threat.

Putin had earlier threatened that gas supplies via Nord Stream were at risk of being reduced even further. Still, Russia, the world’s largest gas exporter, has not only been denying Western accusations of using its energy supplies as a tool of coercion, but also vaunting itself as a reliable energy supplier.

Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday that Russia would not send oil supplies to the world market if a price cap was imposed below the cost of production.

Running under the Baltic Sea, the pipeline’s yearly capacity amounts to 55 billion cubic metres (bcm).

Russian FM threatens to extend ‘geographical tasks’

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Russia’s military “tasks” in Ukraine now went beyond the eastern Donbas region.

Lavrov went on to say that Moscow’s objectives would expand further if the West kept supplying Kyiv with long-range weapons such as the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

That means the geographical tasks will extend still further from the current line,” he said, adding that peace talks made no sense at the moment. However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not support his colleague’s words, later telling RIA that Moscow was not closing the door on talks with Kyiv despite Lavrov’s comments.

The aggression has raised global energy and food prices and increased fears of famine in poorer countries as Ukraine and Russia are both major grain producers.

The US estimates that Russian casualties in Ukraine so far have reached around 15,000 killed and perhaps 45,000 wounded, CIA Director William Burns said on Wednesday.

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