Cutting off Russian gas denies the benefit of the grain deal

Russia’s Gazprom is set to cut supplies further through its largest gas link with Germany, dashing hopes that a deal on grain supplies would lessen the economic impact of the war in Ukraine.

The European Union has accused Russia of resorting to energy blackmail, while the Kremlin says the gas outages are caused by maintenance issues and Western sanctions.

Gazprom said on Monday, citing instructions from the industry watchdog, that flows through Nord Stream 1 will drop to 33 million cubic meters per day as of 0400 GMT on Wednesday. This is half the current flows, which are already only 40 percent of the normal capacity.

Germany said it saw no technical reason for the latest cut.

Politicians in Europe have repeatedly said that Russia may turn off gas this winter, a move that would push Germany into recession and drive up prices for consumers already facing a painful rise in energy prices.

President Vladimir Putin warned the West this month that continued sanctions could lead to a catastrophic rise in energy prices for consumers around the world. Europe imports about 40 percent of its gas and 30 percent of its oil from Russia.

Rising energy prices and a global wheat shortage are among the most far-reaching effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They threaten millions in poor countries with starvation.

Ukraine said on Monday it hopes a UN-brokered deal to try to ease food shortages by resuming grain exports from the Black Sea region this week will begin to be implemented.

Officials from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations agreed on Friday that there would be no attacks on merchant ships moving through the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and on markets and pledged to set up a monitoring post.

Moscow shrugged off fears that the deal could be derailed by a Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Saturday, saying it only targeted military infrastructure. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack as a “barbaric” that showed Moscow could not be trusted.

A senior Ukrainian government official said he hoped the first shipment of grain from Ukraine, a major global supplier, would be shipped from Chornomorsk this week, with shipments from other ports mentioned in the deal within two weeks.

“We believe that in the next 24 hours we will be ready to work on resuming exports from our ports,” Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yury Vaskov told a news conference.

As the war entered its sixth month, the Ukrainian military reported widespread Russian bombing of eastern Ukraine overnight. She said that Moscow continues to prepare for an attack on Bakhmut in the Donbass industrial region, which Russia aims to capture on behalf of separatist proxies.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet has prevented grain exports from Ukraine since the invasion of Moscow on February 24.

A UN official described Friday’s deal, the first diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict, as a “virtual ceasefire” for the ships and facilities covered in the deal.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and for Ukraine to mine mines in its ports. Under Friday’s agreement, pilots will guide ships along safe channels.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian military said that two Kalibr missiles fired from Russian warships hit the area of ​​a pumping station in the port of Odessa, and the air defense forces shot down two more. They did not crash into the grain storage area and did not cause huge damage.

Russia said the strikes hit a Ukrainian warship and an arms depot in Odessa with precision missiles and should not affect the start of shipments.

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