Ukraine: New tensions between the EU and Russia over gas, the fate of Zaporijjia still worries

Ukraine: New tensions between the EU and Russia over gas, the fate of Zaporijjia still worries

Tensions between Moscow and the EU over Russian gas supplies rose again on Wednesday, with Kyiv warning that a disaster at the Zaporizhia power plant could have repercussions beyond Ukraine.

While defending himself against using energy as a “weapon”, Vladimir Putin threatened to halt all supplies of hydrocarbons in the event of a price cap, a project restarted by Brussels on the same day.

Capping Russian hydrocarbon prices is “stupid,” he told an economic forum in Vladivostok, Russian Far East.

“We will not deliver anything at all if it goes against our interests, in this case economic ones. Neither gas, nor oil, nor coal (…). Nothing,” added the Russian President.

But moments later, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen floated the idea of ​​such a cap as part of measures to lower Europeans’ energy bills.

It would also allow Brussels to “reduce the revenue” used by the Russian authorities to “finance this cruel war against Ukraine.”

“At the beginning of the war, Russian gas by pipeline accounted for 40% of all gas imported (by the EU). Today it only makes up 9%,” emphasized Ms. von der Leyen.

Kyiv denounced a “Russian propaganda in full swing threatening Europe with a freezing winter”.

“Putin is moving towards the second phase of a hybrid war that threatens the stability of European homes,” said Ukrainian diplomatic spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.

“Make no mistake, gas cuts by Russia have nothing to do with sanctions. It’s planned in advance,” he added.

Mr Putin’s grievances are not limited to hydrocarbons, the Kremlin chief is attacking the West’s “sanctions fever” which he believes will fail to “isolate Russia”.

The “peak” of difficulties related to these sanctions is “over”, he assured in particular.

Mr Putin insisted on strengthening ties with Asia, particularly China, in the face of “the West’s technological, financial and economic aggression”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting Belgrade, agreed, accusing Westerners of “provocation” towards Moscow.

– “Humanitarian Disaster” –

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country is heavily dependent on Russian gas, said in Berlin that Germany would get through the winter “with courage and bravery” despite the threat of bottlenecks.

Mr Putin has also countered Western accusations that the conflict in Ukraine and its consequences for agriculture allow Moscow to put pressure on developing countries dependent on Ukrainian wheat.

According to him, the vast majority of Ukrainian grain, exports of which have just resumed, go to European countries, and not to poor countries, which poses a risk of a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Fears surrounding the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces for the past six months, also remain strong.

A nuclear accident would have “consequences not only for Ukraine, but of course also consequences beyond its borders,” warned Oleg Korikov, head of Ukraine’s nuclear safety agency.

The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporijia, is being bombed, which is why Kyiv and Moscow are blaming each other.

In a report released Tuesday after a visit, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for a “security zone” to be established around the site, whose situation had become “unsustainable”.

For his part, the head of the Ukrainian public operator Energoatom, Petro Kotin, on Wednesday wanted this plant to be placed under the protection of a “peace contingent”.

But the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, demanded “clarifications” from the IAEA on that report, and Mr Putin denied the agency’s claims about the presence of military equipment at the site.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party proposed organizing November 4 referendums in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to annex them to Russia.

“Donetsk, Lugansk and many other Russian cities will finally find their home base. And the Russian world, now divided by formal borders, will regain its integrity,” said Andrei Tourchak, General Counselor of United Russia’s General Council.

In Kyiv, the supreme commander of the Ukrainian army, Valery Zaloujny, admitted for the first time to carrying out rocket attacks on Russian bases in Crimea in August and threatened to continue these types of operations.

Ukraine has “successfully conducted rocket attacks on enemy military bases, including Saki airfield,” he wrote in an article published by the state news agency Ukrinform.

Explosions resounded at this Russian airfield in Crimea in early August, leaving one dead and several injured, and in particular destroying ammunition intended for military aviation.

Near the front lines, Ukrainian civilians are already preparing for a winter made worse by ongoing fighting and a lack of gas for heating.

“We will regroup to warm up (…) come what may,” said philosopher Oleksandre Matviïevski, a resident of Kramatorsk, 25 km from the front, chainsaw in hand.


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