Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky says Kremlin waging an ‘open gas war’
Despite a weekend air strike, the first ships from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports may set sail in days under a deal agreed on Friday, the United Nations said. This would help ease an international food crisis, although mistrust and potential danger remained.
Soaring energy costs and fears of famine in parts of the world show how the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II – now in its sixth month and with no resolution in sight – is having an impact far from Ukraine.
On the frontlines, the Ukrainian military reported widespread Russian artillery barrages in the east overnight and said Moscow’s troops were preparing for a new assault on Bakhmut, a city in the industrial Donbas region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West earlier this month that sanctions risked triggering huge global energy price rises.
Yesterday, Russian energy giant Gazprom, citing instructions from an industry watchdog, said gas flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would fall to 33 million cubic metres per day from tomorrow.
That is half of the current flows, which are already only 40pc of normal capacity. Prior to the war, Europe imported about 40pc of its gas and 30pc of its oil from Russia.
The Kremlin says the gas disruption is the result of maintenance issues and Western sanctions, while the European Union has accused Russia of resorting to energy blackmail.
Germany said it saw no technical reason for the latest reduction.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the Kremlin was waging an “open gas war” against Europe.
Politicians in Europe have repeatedly said Russia could cut off gas this winter, a step that would thrust Germany into recession and lead to soaring prices for consumers already faced with painfully high energy costs.
Moscow says it is not interested in a complete stoppage of gas supplies to Europe.
Rising energy prices and a global wheat shortage are among the most far-reaching effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, threatening millions in poorer countries with hunger.
Officials from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UN agreed on Friday there would be no attacks on merchant ships moving through the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and on to markets.
We will also continue to actively explore other options with the international community to increase Ukraine exports
Moscow brushed aside concerns the deal could be derailed by a Russian missile strike on Ukraine’s port of Odesa on Saturday, saying it targeted only military infrastructure.
The White House said the strike cast doubt on Russia’s credibility and was watching closely to see if commitments would be fulfilled.
“We will also continue to actively explore other options with the international community to increase Ukraine exports through overland routes as well as options to help Ukrainian farmers temporarily store food,” it said.
Meanwhile, American-supplied Himars missile launchers have destroyed more than 50 Russian ammunition dumps since they arrived on the battlefield last month, Ukraine’s defence minister has said.
Oleksiy Reznikov told Ukrainian television that the “scalpel”-like accuracy of the high mobility artillery rocket systems had significantly eroded Russia’s supply chains and its ability to conduct “active fighting and cover our armed forces with heavy shelling”.
“We are talking about 50 sites in terms of ammunition storage locations alone,” he said. “Our gunners use Himars very precisely – like a surgeon with a scalpel. And you can even see this in the photos of some bridge crossings where [the shells] are very accurately placed in the area of the seams of the bridge connections.”
He did not give specific details, but Ukraine has struck three bridges across the Dnieper in Russian-occupied Kherson in recent days. The strikes appear to be designed to isolate Russian units on the right bank of the Dnieper.
Elsewhere, Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime,” expressing the Kremlin’s war aims in some of the bluntest terms yet as its forces pummel the country with artillery barrages and airstrikes.
Apparently suggesting that Moscow’s war aims extend beyond Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said: “We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)
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