World

Putin denies Russia to blame for Europe's energy woes

Germany is taking control of three Russian-owned refineries in the country to ensure energy security before an embargo on oil from Russia takes effect next year, officials said Friday.

Meanwhile, Germany takes control of 3 Russian-owned oil refineries in bid to ensure energy security

Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen talking to media in Uzbekistan on Friday, denied that Moscow had anything to do with Europe's energy crisis. (Sergei Bobylyov/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied Moscow had anything to do with Europe's energy crisis, saying that if the European Union wanted more gas it should lift sanctions preventing the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Speaking to reporters after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan, Putin blamed what he called "the green agenda" for the energy crisis, and insisted that Russia would fulfil its energy obligations.

"The bottom line is, if you have an urge, if it's so hard for you, just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, just push the button and everything will get going," Putin said.

Nord Stream 2, which lays on the bed of the Baltic Sea almost in parallel to Nord Stream 1, was built a year ago, but Germany decided not to proceed with it just days before Russia sent its troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

European gas prices more than doubled from the start of the year amid a decline in Russian supplies.

This year's price surge has squeezed already struggling consumers and forced some industries to halt production.

Europe has accused Russia of weaponizing energy supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Russia says the West has launched an economic war and sanctions have hampered Nord Stream 1 pipeline operations.

Russia has cut off gas supplies to several countries, including Bulgaria and Poland, because they refused to pay in rubles rather than the currency of the contract.

Russian gas giant Gazprom also said earlier this month that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Europe's major supply route, would remain shut as a turbine at a compressor station had an engine oil leak, sending wholesale gas prices soaring.

Germany takes control of 3 refineries

Meanwhile, Germany is taking control of three Russian-owned refineries in the country to ensure energy security before an embargo on oil from Russia takes effect next year, officials said Friday.

The PCK refinery in Schwedt, shown above, employs about 12,000 people and provides petroleum products to much of northeastern Germany including Berlin. (Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images)

Two subsidiaries of Russian oil giant Rosneft — Rosneft Deutschland GmbH and RN Refining & Marketing GmbH — will be put under the administration of Germany's Federal Network Agency, the Economy Ministry said in a statement.

As a result, the agency will also control the companies' shares in the refineries PCK Schwedt, MiRo and Bayernoil, located in the east and south of Germany.

"This is a far-reaching energy policy decision to protect our country," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said. "We've long known that Russia isn't a reliable supplier of energy anymore."

"With today's decision, we're ensuring that Germany is supplied with oil in the medium- and long-term as well," Scholz said. "That is particularly true for the Schwedt refinery."

Rosneft accounts for about 12 per cent of Germany's oil refining capacity, importing several hundred million euros' worth of oil from Russia every month, the ministry said.

It said the move would help ensure continued energy supplies and was initially due to last for six months.

Rosneft had previously made clear it had no intention to stop imports of oil via the Druzhba pipeline, which runs from Russia through Ukraine to refineries in central Europe, despite a looming EU embargo coming into force on Jan. 1, 2023.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, is watched by German Economy Minister Robert Habeck during a news conference in Berlin on Friday. Officials announced that Germany is taking control of three Russian-owned refineries in the country to ensure energy security before an embargo on oil from Russia takes effect next year. (Christian Mang/Reuters)

Scholz said a 1 billion euro aid package would secure jobs for about 1,200 people currently working at the PCK refinery in Schwedt and help with its long-term transformation as part of the transition toward a green economy.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the refinery would in the future receive oil through a pipeline from the port city of Rostock and via neighbouring Poland, which had refused to provide supplies as long as there was a risk that Rosneft might profit from them.

With files from The Associated Press

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