President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia will stop supplying gas and oil if price caps are imposed, while the European Union faced divisions on how to respond to a deepening energy crisis.
Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Putin blasted Europe’s calls for a price cap on Russian gas as “stupid,” and said Russia would walk away from its supply contracts if the West imposed price caps on Russia’s exports.
EU energy ministers are due to meet on Friday to discuss how to respond to reduced gas supplies from Russia and a surge in prices that threaten to overwhelm businesses and consumers as demand rises in the colder months.
However, a plan to cap prices for Russian gas, one of the main measures being weighed by the EU, was thrown into doubt when a Czech minister said it should be taken off the agenda.
The Czechs are helping to guide discussions as holders of the EU’s rotating presidency.
“It is not a constructive proposal, according to me. It is more another way to sanction Russia than an actual solution to the energy crisis in Europe,” Czech news agency CTK quoted Industry Minister Jozef Sikela as saying.
The energy crisis facing Europe has grown more acute after Russia’s Gazprom fully suspended gas supplied through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany after it said it found an engine oil leak during maintenance work last week.
Putin rejected Western claims that Moscow was using gas as a weapon to break opposition to its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian president said Germany and Western sanctions were to blame for the pipeline not being operational and that Ukraine and Poland decided on their own to switch off other gas routes into Europe.
He called on Germany to return a turbine for the pipeline’s Portovaya compressor station that would allow Russia to resume pumping gas.
The impact of the surge in prices is forcing companies to curtail production and governments to spend billions on support to cushion consumers from the impact.
Europe’s electricity industry body urged governments to provide emergency credit to energy companies facing a liquidity squeeze from soaring collateral needs as power prices rise.
In Germany, a survey showed that more than 90 percent of medium-sized companies see rising energy and raw materials prices as a major or existential threat, highlighting the growing risks for the “Mittelstand” which forms the backbone of Europe’s largest economy.