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Russia offers to ‘save’ Britain by increasing gas supplies

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Russia has offered to “save” the UK from rising energy costs by increasing gas supplies, saying it was “in no rush” to reach net zero emissions.

Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin also denied that the country is withholding gas supplies, pointing out that it will take some time for commitments to increase supply to take effect.

The Russian ambassador to the UK also said he understands that a decision has not yet been made in Russia whether President Vladimir Putin will attend the Cop26 climate conference to be held in Glasgow from the end of October.

It comes after Putin accused European leaders of being “insane” for denying he withheld gas from the continent as a geopolitical “weapon”.

The Russian president insisted that his country has always kept the taps to Europe open, including during the Cold War, and dismissed any suggestion that he is restricting supplies as “complete nonsense.”

Asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show whether Russia understands the pressures of gas supply and price increases for people in Europe and the UK, Mr Kelin said Russia is monitoring the situation but seemed to downplay the importance of the UK’s problems.

However, he also suggested that Russia will come to the rescue if necessary, despite only about two percent of Britain’s gas coming from the country.

Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin also denied that Russia is withholding gas supplies.

Russia has linked the easing of Europe's gas crisis with the approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (above), but experts say the Kremlin already has enough capacity to increase supplies without bringing the new route online (pictured)

Russia has linked the easing of Europe’s gas crisis with the approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (above), but experts say the Kremlin already has enough capacity to increase supplies without bringing the new route online (pictured)

Mr Kelin said: ‘If it is an opportunity that we will come to rescue, of course we will do what we can to alleviate the difficult conditions that are now being created.’

The ambassador said Russia has increased gas supplies to help Europe amid a global price hike, but also argued the country could do more if the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline were approved.

He also told the BBC that Russia has increased gas supplies to Western Europe, citing two different numbers, an increase of both 10% and 15%.

When asked whether Russia is withholding supplies for political reasons, the ambassador replied: “Certainly not for political reasons.”

He said Russia has increased gas supply to Western Europe via Ukraine by 10%, but added that the pipeline cannot increase capacity further. He said the Nord Stream 2 is ready for use and that he expects Germany to give the green light to the new pipeline.

The new 764-mile pipe runs across the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Ukraine but has led to opposition from the US and many Eastern European countries concerned about energy security and climate goals.

When asked if Russia should aim for net zero faster than 2060, Mr Kelin said: “We’re not in much of a hurry, we don’t want to jump. We don’t believe that artificial goals and little calculated goals help.’

The Russian ambassador to the UK also said he understands that no decision has yet been made in Russia on whether President Vladimir Putin will attend the Cop26 climate conference to be hosted in Glasgow from the end of October.

The Russian ambassador to the UK also said he understands that no decision has yet been made in Russia on whether President Vladimir Putin will attend the Cop26 climate conference to be hosted in Glasgow from the end of October.

Mr Kelin’s comments follow claims that Russia has restricted gas supplies in an effort to push regulators in Europe to act quickly to certify the controversial new pipeline.

Last week, government minister Lord Agnew of Oulton said rising energy costs had nothing to do with supply shortages, but were due to a ‘geopolitical move’ by Russia to put pressure on Europe.

Challenged by Andrew Marr that there is no evidence in publicly available data that Russia has increased supplies via Ukraine by 10%, Mr Kelin said he is not a specialist in that field, but added: “Gas does not travel with the speed of light of course, it goes very slowly. So what do you expect? As soon as the president has said (we will supply more gas) and tomorrow prices will fall? This is not possible.’

When asked whether Russia is doing everything it can to get more and cheaper gas to Western Europe, Mr Kelin said Nord Stream 2 would help address those issues.

And when asked whether gas supplies will increase from November 1, whether Nord Stream 2 will get approval or not, Mr Kelin said: “I just don’t know. But, as I said, we’ve increased it by 15% now.”

Elsewhere in the interview, the Russian ambassador insisted that BBC news correspondent Sarah Rainsford – who was expelled from Russia earlier this year – could return to the country if Russian journalists are granted visas to work in the UK.

Uncertainty over whether Putin will attend the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow comes as summit organizers have been embroiled in controversy after companies attacked the summit as ‘mismanaged’, The Guardian reports.

The summit’s sponsors, including Sky, Sainsbury’s, Natwest and Unilever, have attacked the ‘shifting goal posts’ in the government’s schedule, complaining about ‘very inexperienced’ officials for delayed decisions and poor communication between the organizers and companies.

A source said planning was ‘very frustrating’ and added: ‘They had an extra year to prepare for Cop because of Covid but it doesn’t feel like this time was being used to make better progress. Everything feels at the very last moment.’

Why is Nord Stream 2 so important?

Despite their talk about renewable energy and a greener planet, European leaders continue to rely on fossil fuels for about two-thirds of their energy.

Natural gas makes up the second largest part of the EU’s ‘energy mix’ – after oil – and was responsible for more than 20 percent of electricity generation in 2020.

Nearly all of that gas — about 90 percent — is imported from outside the bloc, with 40 each coming from Russia, which is the largest contributor.

Nord Stream 2 is an $11 billion pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea and promises to roughly double the capacity of the pre-existing Nord Stream pipeline, one of the four main routes through which Russian gas reaches Europe.

The line began in 2011 and was not completed until earlier this year after it became embroiled in a political tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow.

The Kremlin is eager to open the line as it can sell more gas in Europe, a huge money-wager for an economy that gets a third of all its revenue from the oil and gas sector.

It would also be a major political victory for Putin, allowing him to bypass the lines that run through Ukraine and Poland — depriving both countries of large sums of money they collect for the maintenance of those lines.

This is seen as a reward for the couple who break away from Russia’s sphere of influence by joining the EU.

Putin also hopes it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, giving him more power over the continent, while limiting retaliatory actions — such as sanctions — that Western leaders can take against him.

Several European countries — most notably Germany, which gets 75 percent of its energy from fossil fuels and would become a major gas distributor for its neighbors once the line opens — are in favor.

But it’s hotly contested by others, with Ukraine and Poland – perhaps unsurprisingly – being the most outspoken.

The US has traditionally opposed the project, fearing it will make it harder to get European leaders to take a tough stance on Russia while handing over more money and power to its old enemy.

But in a surprising move, Joe Biden effectively greenlit completion of the project earlier this year by lifting sanctions against the company building it.

The sanctions had halted construction for all of 2020, prompting people like Ted Cruz to brag that the line would never pump gas.

Biden lifted the measures in May and the line was ready shortly after. The move was seen as a sweetener for US ally Germany, but was labeled short-sighted by Biden’s critics.

NS2 now only needs the approval of European leaders to start pumping gas, something Putin’s energy minister suggested would end the current crisis – leading to accusations that Russia is holding Europe to pay ransom.

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