Russia has threatened to halt natural gas shipments to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in retaliation for sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine, a move that might intensify energy market turmoil and drive consumer prices even higher.
Late Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is also in charge of energy issues, said that Russia has the right to "reflect" the sanctions imposed on the Russian economy in a televised remark. He added that no decision to shut down Nord Stream 1 has been made and that the pipeline is currently operating "at full capacity."
The remarks follow a day of dramatic fluctuations on European gas markets, with prices soaring by nearly 80% at one point due to fears of Russian supply disruptions.
Europe's reliance on Russian energy has hindered its leaders' ability to agree on how to respond to the invasion of Ukraine. Last month, Berlin postponed the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, and European Union officials say they're working on a plan that could cut the bloc's import demands from Russia by 80% this year.
Many EU parliamentarians, on the other hand, are wary of taking rapid action, which is one of the reasons Germany has rejected proposals for an oil import ban. According to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Russian oil and gas are "essential" to the European economy. Russia provides more than 40% of the EU's gas and a quarter of its oil.
Novak added that if the US and EU restrict Russian oil imports, Russia has other possibilities for exporting its oil, and that such a move may have "catastrophic implications for the world market," with prices jumping to $300 a barrel or more.