The gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany remains closed.
Gazprom postponed restarting the flow of natural gas through a closely watched pipeline that connects Russia and Germany, an unexpected delay that appeared to be part of a larger struggle between Moscow and the West over energy and the war in Ukraine.
The Russian-owned energy giant had been expected to resume the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Saturday after three days of maintenance. But hours before the pipeline was set to reopen, Gazprom said that problems had been found during inspections, and that the pipeline would be closed until they were eliminated. It did not give a timeline for restarting.
The announcement had the hallmarks of a tit-for-tat move. On Friday, finance ministers for the Group of 7 countries said that they had agreed to impose a price cap mechanism on Russian oil in a bid to choke off some of the energy revenue Moscow is still collecting from Europe.
European officials said Russia was cutting back its gas deliveries to punish Europe for its opposition to the war in Ukraine. Many have accused the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, of seeking to rattle energy markets with threats of ever-diminishing gas supplies.
Eric Mamer, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that the “fallacious pretenses” for the latest delay were “proof of Russia’s cynicism.”
In a statement Friday, Gazprom said it had found oil leaks around a turbine used to pressurize the pipeline, forcing it to call off the restart. The German company Siemens Energy, the maker of the turbine, cast doubt on that account. “As the manufacturer of the turbines, we can only state that such a finding is not a technical reason for stopping operation,” the company said late Friday. Siemens also said there were additional turbines available that could be used to keep the pipeline operating.
Whatever prompted Gazprom’s latest action, there is little doubt that energy has become a proxy fight in the Ukraine war. Simmering under the surface is resentment by oil producers like Russia over Western plans to phase out oil and gas, their key export earners, because of climate change concerns.
Europe, meanwhile, is squeezing Russia with sanctions and intends to stop buying Russian oil by December. Russia is taking advantage of Europe’s vulnerability on natural gas, driving up the price of the fuel to extremely high levels across Europe and creating fears of widespread hardship this winter.