Russia further cuts Italy’s gas supply due to ‘maintenance work’

Italy's Eni said on Monday Gazprom was further reducing the supply of gas, as the Russian giant began 10 days of routine maintenance on its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

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

“Gazprom announced that today it will supply to Eni volumes of gas for approximately 21 million cubic meters/day, while the average for the last few days was of about 32 million cubic meters/day,” Eni said.

The Russian energy giant had previously cut gas supplies to Italy over a period of several days in June amid mounting tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 

At the time Gazprom blamed the shortfall on problems at its Portovaya plant which feeds the Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which Gazprom transports part of the volumes destined for Eni.

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

However, the move came just days after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Kyiv on a surprise joint visit with the leaders of France and Germany to show solidarity with Ukraine.

Draghi said the squeeze was a cynical retaliatory move by Moscow, and denounced Gazprom’s technical explanation as ‘lies’.

“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 that were stuck in Ukrainian ports at the time.

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

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

Part of Gazprom’s gas supplies reach Italy via the Trans Austria Gas Pipeline (TAG), but some of it comes through the Nord Stream 1, which has now officially been shut off due to annual maintenance work.

The fear is that – with relations between Russia and the West at their lowest in years because of the invasion of Ukraine – Gazprom might take the opportunity to simply refuse to reopen the valves.

A long-term shutdown of the pipeline would hit EU countries – particularly Italy – hard, deepening an energy crisis in which uncertain supplies have pushed prices up ahead of Europe’s winter.

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.