Putin hints pipeline may resume operation

In the clearest indication yet that Moscow intends to restart at least some shipments, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated on Tuesday that natural gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline may be restricted when the link begins operating this week.

Unless sections that have been delayed by sanctions are returned to Russia, the pipeline may operate at around 20% of its potential, or roughly half of the volume it sent before being taken offline for planned maintenance this month, Mr Putin told media after a summit in Iran.

In response to worries that Russia would completely stop supplying gas, the European Union was prepared to propose on Wednesday that member states reduce their gas use by 15% starting next month. According to a working paper from the IMF, the EU economy may suffer economic damage of up to 2.7% if Russian gas is shut off.

The largest pipeline carrying gas to Europe is currently idle due to maintenance, which is occurring as the region tries to restock its wintertime supplies. Gas was flowing at around 40% of capacity prior to maintenance. Those familiar with the issue say that Russian energy giant Gazprom is prepared to resume flows, albeit at a lower rate. In the end, the Kremlin will decide.

Officials and companies in the area have been anxiously awaiting news on whether Russia will actually reopen the tap for Nord Stream. The European Union is frantically looking for measures to lower consumption while operating under the presumption that flows will be reduced.

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