“Russia is not using any weapons,” Putin said. “Even during the most difficult parts of the Cold War, Russia regularly met its contractual obligations and supplied gas to Europe,” he added.
Russia cut off recent gas exports to the European Union in January 2009 after failing to agree on gas pipeline transit prices and tariffs with Ukraine. He also reduced gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and 2008 as a result of price disputes.
Putin gave a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday, saying Russia was “prepared to discuss any additional steps” with European governments to tackle the worsening energy crisis.
“Russia is perfectly fulfilling its contractual obligations to our partners, including our partners in Europe,” he said. “Moreover, we always try to meet our partners halfway.”
Wholesale electricity prices in Europe have increased by 200% compared to the 2019 average, according to the European Commission. The increase is a result of rising natural gas costs, driven by high demand in Asia and lower supplies than expected from Russia.
Most EU countries rely on gas-fired power plants to meet electricity demand, and about 40% of that gas comes from Russia, according to Eurostat.
Last month, the International Energy Agency called on Russia to supply more natural gas to Europe to help ease the crisis, saying that although Russia is meeting contractual obligations to European customers, exports have fallen from their level of year 2019.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday that Russia has increased gas supplies to Europe to the maximum possible level under existing contracts and cannot cross those thresholds.
Russian officials have previously said that speeding up the adoption of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia to Germany could help lower natural gas prices. The pipeline was completed last month despite years of opposition from countries including the United States, which warned it would increase Moscow’s influence in Europe.
The Biden administration announced in July that it had reached an agreement with Berlin that would allow the pipeline to pass in exchange for German aid to Ukraine. He is now awaiting permission from the German authorities.
The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a series of measures aimed at tackling the energy crisis, including speeding up the transition to renewable energy.
EU member states have put in place a series of emergency measures to help consumers and businesses meet the electricity costs of the decade, including direct financial support to households, state aid to companies and targeted tax cuts.
Amy Cassidy, Chris Liakos, Wal Azeez and Katharina Krebs contributed to the report.
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