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Russia not withholding supplies, says ambassador to UK





Russia is not withholding gas supplies to Europe for political reasons, the country's ambassador to the UK has said.


Andrei Kelin said that commitments to increase supply would take time to take effect.


Gas prices globally have soared as economies start to recover from the Covid pandemic.


The US has expressed concern that Russia may be using gas as a political weapon as household bills rise.


Russia only provides about 5% of the UK's gas usage, but it accounts for about half of the EU's natural gas imports, with most of the rest coming from Norway and Algeria.


Some analysts have suggested Russia could be holding back supplies to Europe to speed up approval of the newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline running directly from Russia to Germany.


This bypasses Ukraine, and has been met with objections on geo-political as well as environmental grounds, although Russia is keen for it to come on stream.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is not aware of any instances where Russia has not met contractual obligations on gas supply.


"Russia can only deliver gas on the basis of contractual obligations and not just like that," she has been quoted as saying.


Gazprom, Russia's majority state-owned energy company, supplies gas to Europe under two different arrangements: long-term contracts often lasting from 10 to 25 years, and "spot" deals or one-off purchases for a fixed amount of gas.


Data from Gazprom's own electronic sales platform suggests very few "spot" sales are currently taking place - which would result in little gas being supplied to Europe under this mechanism.


However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said claims Russia is withholding gas to put pressure on Germany over Nord Stream 2 are "complete rubbish... and politically motivated tittle-tattle".


Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Kelin echoed Mr Putin.


"Certainly, we do not withhold it for political reasons. But gas problems, this is at the pump stations, of course," he said.


Mr Putin has described the gas allegations as "blather", and yet the Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that German Nord Stream 2 approval "would give a positive signal and cool off the current situation".


Mr Kelin said he didn't see "any contradiction" with that.


He said the pipeline was ready and that "we expect final go-ahead from Germany. So as soon as it will happen then of course new gas supplies will come from this pipeline".

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