Russia will resume gas shipments to Europe via a key Gas Pipeline on Thursday, according to the Gas Pipeline operator, amid worries that Moscow may exploit its enormous energy exports to counter Western criticism over its invasion of Ukraine.
The reopening of the Nord Stream 1 Gas Pipeline at reduced capacity after a 10-day maintenance pause might take several hours, according to a representative for the operator.
The Gas Pipeline resumption occurred after statements from Russia’s foreign minister revealed that the Kremlin’s objectives had broadened throughout the five-month conflict.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told official news agency RIA Novosti that Russia’s military “tasks” in Ukraine had expanded beyond the eastern Donbas area.
Lavrov also said that if the West continues to provide Kyiv with long-range weaponry like as the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, Moscow’s aims would extend even more (HIMARS).
“That implies the geographical duties will expand much more beyond the existing line,” he added, adding that peace discussions were now pointless.
Despite Lavrov’s words, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov subsequently told RIA that Moscow is not shutting the door on negotiations with Kyiv.
Concerns that Russian supplies of gas transported via the Nord Stream 1 Gas Pipeline may be shut off by Moscow led the European Union to advise member countries on Wednesday to reduce gas consumption by 15% until March as an emergency measure.
“Russia is attempting to blackmail us. “Russia is using energy as a weapon,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated, calling a complete shutdown of Russian gas shipments a “probable possibility” for which “Europe must be prepared.” “.
According to an OMV spokeswoman, Russia’s Gazprom has indicated that it would supply roughly 50% of agreed-upon gas quantities through Nord Stream on Thursday, at levels experienced before to the suspension.
Russia, the world’s biggest gas exporter, has rejected using its energy supply as an instrument of coercion, claiming that it has been a dependable energy provider.
Russia would not provide oil to the international market if a price ceiling lower than the cost of production is imposed, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday, according to Interfax.
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian military has reported intense and occasionally lethal Russian bombardment amid what it claims are mainly failing Russian ground forces advances in the Donbas’ Luhansk and Donetsk areas.
“There is probably not a single square meter of ground left unharmed by Russian fire in the Luhansk area,” regional governor Serhiy Gaidai stated on the Telegram messaging app. “Shelling is a highly intensive activity. They only come to a halt when the metal ‘tires.'”
In the preceding 24 hours, Ukrainian troops claimed to have killed over 100 Russian soldiers in the south and east, as well as destroying 17 vehicles, some of which were armored.
According to the Russian-installed government in the partly occupied Ukrainian territory of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine carried out a drone hit on a nuclear power plant there, but the reactor was not damaged.
Multiple explosions were also heard in the Russian-controlled southern area of Kherson overnight and into Thursday, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
The Russian invasion has murdered hundreds, displaced millions, and destroyed towns, mainly in Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine’s east and southeast. It has also pushed up global oil and food costs, raising worries of starvation in poorer nations since Ukraine and Russia are both significant grain producers.
According to CIA Director William Burns, the US believes that Russian deaths in Ukraine have reached roughly 15,000 dead and maybe 45,000 injured.
Even in times of peace, Russia considers military casualties to be state secrets, and it has not updated its official fatality counts on a regular basis throughout the conflict.
The US, which stated on Tuesday that it saw signals that Russia was poised to legally annex land it had gained in Ukraine, has committed to fight annexation.
“Again, we have stated unequivocally that annexation by force would be a blatant violation of the UN Charter, and we will not tolerate it. We would not let it go unpunished “On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Ned Price said at a normal daily briefing.
Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and supports Russian-speaking separatist entities in those regions, known collectively as the Donbas.
Nearly five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the Feb. 24 assault while denying that Russia wanted to invade its neighbor, Lavrov is the most senior politician to talk publicly of Russia’s war ambitions in geographical terms.
Then, Putin declared his intention to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine, which Kyiv and the West derided as a pretext for an imperial-style war of expansion.
Lavrov told RIA Novosti that geographical realities have altered since Russian and Ukrainian negotiators failed to reach an agreement in Turkey in late March.
“Now the geography is changed, it’s not only the DPR and LPR, it’s also Kherson and Zaporizhzhia areas and a lot of other territories,” he added, referring to locations outside the Donbas that Russian troops had occupied whole or partially.