Gazprom Suspends Gas Supplies To Latvia As Austria Warns EU Russian Energy Ban "Impossible"

"Today, Gazprom suspended its gas supplies to Latvia... due to violations of the conditions" of purchase, Russian energy giant Gazprom has announced Saturday in a statement posted to Telegram.

This after on Wednesday gas deliveries to Europe were cut to about 20% of capacity via the Nord Stream pipeline. The EU has continued charging Moscow with using energy as a "weapon" and as "blackmail". 

Gazprom Suspends Gas Supplies To Latvia As Austria Warns EU Russian Energy Ban "Impossible"
Image source: Riga Municipality

However, the Kremlin has responded by again blaming Western and US-led sanctions for blocking the ability of Gazprom to properly and safely maintain its systems.

"Technical pumping capacities are down, more restricted. Why? Because the process of maintaining technical devices is made extremely difficult by the sanctions adopted by Europe," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, repeating his familiar theme that the EU has in essence shot itself in the foot.

"Gazprom was and remains a reliable guarantor of its obligations... but it can't guarantee the pumping of gas if the imported devices cannot be maintained because of European sanctions," he said. Regarding Nord Stream, Gazprom has said reduced supply is due to "technical condition of the engine". The saga of the turbine hold-up and blame game with Siemens has in the meantime only continued in stalemate.

As for the stoppage to Latvia and Riga's alleged "violations of the conditions" - this is likely connected with Moscow's demand of payments in rubles for "unfriendly" nations and as retaliation for EU sanctions.

Latvia is now seventh on the list of European countries which have been cut off from Russian gas - or at least seen their supplies drastically reduced to the point they must start mulling emergency rationing plans (Germany being the front and center example of the latter case). Latvia now joints Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany.

But it seems Latvia was among those on its way to weaning itself off Russian energy in the first place: "Earlier this month, the Latvian parliament voted in favor of a proposal to ban Russian gas supplies starting January 2023," notes CNN.

Meanwhile, more significant voices from within the EU have joined Viktor Orban's criticism of Brussels' measures targeting Russia, saying it will only hurt European populations worse. Russian media days ago cited the words of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer:

The European Union cannot ban Russian natural gas, as the step would harm EU members more than Russia, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer warned on Thursday, as cited by Austrian media outlets. Chancellor Nehammer made the comments during a visit to Vienna by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

"Sanctions must hit those against whom they are directed more, but not harm those who decide them," Nehammer told the Austria Press Agency.

Nehammer added, as translated in, "Austria’s position is that an embargo on gas is impossible. Not only because Austria depends on Russian gas, the German industry also depends on it, and if it collapses, the Austrian industry will also collapse, and we will face mass unemployment."

The Austrian leader's "impossible" comments were later picked up in prominent Chinese state-run media as well. He also warned of a domino effect leading to "mass unemployment".

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