Italian PM says Russia’s excuses for gas cut are ‘lies’ as shortfall continues

Italy received a lower supply of gas from Russia again on Friday, after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi accused Gazprom of lying about the reasons for the supply cuts.

Italian PM says Russia's excuses for gas cut are 'lies' as shortfall continues
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi pictured in Kyiv on Wednesday. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

Italian energy firm Eni said in a statement on Friday that it would receive only 50 percent of the requested supply from Russia, meaning Gazprom has now cut its gas imports to Italy and other countries for the third day running.

“The reasons for the supply cuts… we are told, are technical,” Draghi told a news conference in Kyiv on Thursday after Gazprom reduced supplies to Italy’s Eni and to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline for a second day.

“We and Germany and others believe that these are lies.”

Russia stepped up the energy pressure on Europe this week as tensions raged with the West over Ukraine, slashing gas supplies to the continent in a move blasted as “political” by Germany.

Several European countries, including Italy and Germany, are highly reliant upon Russian gas for their energy needs.

Italian energy giant Eni said on Thursday it would receive only 65 percent of the gas requested in a second day of reduced supply.

READ ALSO: Italy receives lower Russian gas supply for second day

“Gazprom explained that the under-delivery is due to problems at the Portovaya plant which feeds the Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which Gazprom transports part of the volumes destined for Eni,” a spokesman for the Italian firm said on Wednesday

Draghi said state-owned Gazprom – which has said Moscow has every right to play by its own rules over the cuts – was using the gas supply for “political” ends.

Gazprom logo

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian national energy firm Gazprom for imports of natural gas. Photo by Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP

“We are seeing a political use of gas, just as we have seen a political use of wheat,” he said in reference to the millions of tons of wheat currently stuck in Ukrainian ports.

Italy has been seeking to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by seeking alternative sources, while also promising to invest more in renewables.

Draghi said in May the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

READ ALSO: How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

The gas squeeze “has consequences, not immediately on consumption, but on stockpiling”, Draghi said.

Italy had been filling its gas reserves “quite rapidly”, and was “already at 52 percent of stockpile levels”.

But the reduction in supply has pushed prices up, which will inevitably make stockpiling “more difficult”, he said.

With Gazprom providing less gas at higher prices, “Europe is in greater difficulty and Russia is cashing in exactly the same as before, if not more,” Draghi said.

“This is a (Russian) strategy that… must be faced and fought.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Kyiv on Thursday on a surprise joint visit with the leaders of France and Germany, to show solidarity with the war-torn country.

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Italian PM Draghi cancels Africa trip after positive Covid test

The Italian premier has tested positive for coronavirus but is currently asymptomatic, his office said on Monday.

Italian PM Draghi cancels Africa trip after positive Covid test

Draghi had been due to visit oil-rich Angola and the Republic of Congo this week with a view to switching Italy’s energy supplies away from Russia.

That trip has now been cancelled as a result of the prime minister’s Covid-positive status, his office confirmed. 

Instead, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio and Minister for Ecological Transition will represent the country in diplomatic talks with the African nations.

READ ALSO: ‘Peace or air conditioning?’ Italy vows to follow EU on Russian gas embargo

The pair will fly to Luanda on Wednesday and Brazzaville on Thursday to conduct negotiations on Italy’s behalf.