Moscow has stoked fears of an energy war by threatening to close a major gas pipeline to Germany after the US pushed its European allies to consider banning Russian oil imports over its invasion of Ukraine.
In an address on Russian state television, Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak said: “A rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market”, and claimed the price of oil could rise to more than US$300 a barrel.
Novak cited Germany’s decision last month to halt the certification of Nord Stream 2, a secondary pipeline, saying: “We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.”
He claimed it would be impossible to quickly find a replacement for Russian oil on the European market. “It will take years, and it will still be much more expensive for European consumers. Ultimately, they will be hurt the worst by this outcome,” he said.
Analysts at Bank of America have said prices could reach US$200 a barrel if most of Russia’s exports were cut off, and oil prices hit near 14-year highs on Tuesday, with Brent crude futures reaching as high as $125.19 a barrel.
Novak’s threat refers to the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany and follows comments by the European Commission’s climate policy chief that the EU could wean itself off Russian gas within years and start curbing its reliance within months.
“It’s not easy, but it’s feasible,” Frans Timmermans told the European parliament’s environment committee on Monday. Russia supplies about 40% of Europe’s gas.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered energy security concerns and the European Commission will on Tuesday propose plans to diversify Europe’s fossil fuel supplies away from Russia and move faster to renewable energy.
Joe Biden held a video conference call with the leaders of France, Germany and Britain on Monday as he pushed for their support to ban Russian oil imports. The US was however willing to move ahead without its European allies, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, revealed the idea was gaining traction in the White House and had been the subject of “very active discussion”. Boris Johnson attracted criticism after saying the UK may have to increase its domestic gas and oil production.
In other developments:
- Ukrainian intelligence claimed that a Russian general has died in fighting around Kharkiv, the second such officer killed in a week. It broadcast what it said was a conversation between Russian FSB officers discussing the death of Maj Gen Vitaly Gerasimov, and complaining that their secure communications no longer functioned inside Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, rallied the nation in a fresh late-night video address, saying that “heroic” resistance was making the war “like a nightmare” for Russia. Taking viewers on a tour of his quarters in…
Read More: Russia threatens Europe’s gas supplies as west mulls oil import ban over Ukraine