Russia’s Gazprom has told customers in Europe it cannot guarantee gas supplies because of ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, according to a letter seen by Reuters, upping the ante in an economic tit-for-tat with the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The July 14 letter from the Russian state gas monopoly said it was retroactively declaring force majeure on supplies dating from June 14. The news comes as Nord Stream 1, the key pipeline delivering Russian gas to Germany and beyond, is undergoing annual maintenance meant to conclude on Thursday.
The letter added to Europe’s fears that Moscow could keep the pipeline mothballed in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine, heightening an energy crisis that risks tipping the region into recession.
Known as an ‘act of God’ clause, force majeure is standard in business contracts and spells out extreme circumstances that excuse a party from their legal obligations.
Gazprom did not respond to a request for comment.
Russian gas supplies have been declining via major routes for some months, including via Ukraine and Belarus as well as through Nord Stream 1 under the Baltic Sea.