Russia 'emboldened' by Brexit and US division says Omand

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Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) blamed Russia for worsening Europe’s natural gas crisis. He implied that the Kremlin was manufactured an energy crisis for political ends at a time of “heightened geopolitical tensions”. The EU is currently fuel-starved as Russia decreased its supply of gas, pushing prices to record highs in the past year.

The gas crisis has intensified in recent weeks as the Yamal Europe pipeline, which sends gas into Germany from Russia, has been in reverse for three weeks, while other pipelines have recorded below-average flows.

Analysts have also accused the Kremlin of wielding its state-run gas companies as a political weapon while tensions climb in Ukraine.

According to Mr Biriol. Mr Putin was choking gas supply by holding back at least a third of the gas it could feasibly send to Europe.

He also accused Mr Putin of draining Russian-controlled storage facilities in the rest of Europe to bolster the impression of tight supplies.

He said: “We believe there are strong elements of tightness in the European gas market due to Russia’s behaviour,”

“I would note that today’s low Russian gas flows to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine.”

“Russia could increase deliveries to Europe by at least one-third — this is the key message.”

One-third of the gas supplies amount to approximately 10 percent of Europe’s energy needs.

Industry officials believe that this is the amount that would be needed to avoid a severe shortage in case of colder-than-expected weather.

Mr Biriol said: “In terms of European gas … we believe there are strong elements of the tightness in European gas markets due to Russia’s behaviour.”

While other pipelines in Europe, such as the ones in Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan have increased their supplies to Europe, Russian state back oil company Gazprom reduced its exports to Europe by 25 percent in the fourth quarter compared with a year ago, despite high market prices.

This comes as NATO sent Russia a dire warning that the first gathering of the NATO-Russia Council in two years today.

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The meeting is intended for NATO to dissuade Russia from invading Ukraine, as Moscow currently has 100,000 troops stationed near the border with Ukraine.

At the meeting, Russian deputy defence Minister Alexander Fomin said that NATO was ignoring Russia’s proposals, which creates grounds for international incidents and conflicts, like in Ukraine.

He also reiterated Moscow’s demands, which include a ban on further NATO expansion and ending NATO military activities in states that joined the alliance after the end of the Cold War.

These demands were unanimously rejected by NATO representatives.

However, NATO’S secretary-general Jen Stoltenberg said they were prepared to negotiate limits with Russia on missile deployment and military exercises in the region.

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