In Wednesday remarks aimed at Western press, President Vladimir Putin shot down accusations that Russia weaponizing its supplies of natural gas in order to pressure German regulators to quickly approve switching on the taps for the recently completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
He dismissed recent reports accusing the Kremlin of withholding gas supplies to Europe as "politically motivated blather with nothing to support it". The statements were given to CNBC in Moscow as part of the annual Russian Energy Week major industry event, with Putin bluntly saying in response, "We are not using any weapons."
The Russian leader added that "Even during the hardest parts of the Cold War Russia regularly has fulfilled its contractual obligations and supplies gas to Europe," according to the US news network's translation.
Last week as Nord Stream 2 critics led by US officials alleged that the Russia-to-Germany pipeline will essentially hold Europe's energy needs hostage to Russian geopolitical whims, Putin instead pointed to Europe's ongoing energy market "hysteria" and crisis as being fundamentally a result of the 'green transition' coupled with corresponding low investment in the extraction industries.
In the Wednesday remarks he re-emphasized that there's "nothing to support it [the idea] that we use energy as a kind of weapon," but instead the reality is that Russia is busy "expanding its supplies to Europe." In support of this statement he alluded to state-run Gazprom actually increasing its natural gas flow to Europe by 15% over the first nine months of this year. He added that Russia stands ready to increase its supply if that's what Europe needs and asks for.
"Higher gas prices in Europe are a consequence of a deficit of energy and not vice versa and that’s why we should not deal in blame shifting, this is what our partners are trying to do," Putin said during the panel conversation. He again invoked Europe's green agenda as playing a big part in its energy costs soaring just ahead of winter:
"You see the problem does not consist in us, it consists in the European side, because, first, we know that the wind farms did not work during summer because of the weather, everyone knows that. Moreover, the Europeans did not pump enough gas into their underground gas facilities... and the supplies to Europe have decreased from other regions of the world."
On oil, elsewhere in the conversation he noted that OPEC+ "is doing everything to ensure that the oil market is completely stabilized. We do not allow sharp price spikes and it is not in our interests."
"The market has stabilized, but we have not yet reached the pre- crisis production level of 11 million barrels a day. And our position is to increase production in accordance with the growing needs of the market," the Russian president said.
And then there was this exchange during the panel conversation:
When asked whether oil could reach $100 a barrel, Putin said it’s "quite possible"...
"We do not seek to restrain production in such a way that prices skyrocket, as it happens in the gas market. We favor smooth and balanced movement."
Gazprom too has been on the defensive in the face of the widespread natural gas restriction accusations coming out of Europe, particularly after last week gas supplies through Belarus to the EU were cut by 70%, according to the company's data. And supplies via Poland too were slashed: "The new figures come after supplies via the Yamal pipeline, which runs from Russia via Belarus to Poland, fell by half last week," EU Observer wrote.
"Analysts, such as US investment bank Goldman Sachs, have said the Yamal cuts could lead to higher gas prices in winter," the report added.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently fired back that Gazprom has fulfilled its current obligations to the maximum extent possible under existing contracts: "Nothing can be delivered beyond the contracts. How? For free? It is a matter of negotiating with Gazprom," he said.