IEA head blames Russia for gas crisis
The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol has pinned the blame firmly on Russia for creating a gas crisis in Europe, claiming that Moscow could increase supplies to the continent by at least a third if it wanted.
"We believe there are strong elements of tightness in the European gas market due to Russia's behaviour," Birol said January 11. "I would note that today's low Russian gas flows to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine."
The IEA head's comments come as Russian officials hold a series of meetings this week with US and NATO counterparts to discuss the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border. There are reports that Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops at the border, and Kyiv claims it is preparing for an invasion later this month. Moscow has said it has no such intention, but has demanded that NATO commit to no military ties with Ukraine, which moved out of Russia's political orbit following its 2014 revolution.
Birol went on to say that "Russia could increase deliveries to Europe by at least one third - this is the key message."
Russian gas flow to Europe slumped to its lowest level on record in November, and remained constrained in December, causing an additional spike in wholesale gas prices in Europe. But while Moscow stands accused of withholding supply to drive up prices and exert pressure with regards to Ukraine and Nord Stream 2, some analysts argue that Russia may not have the extra gas available to send.