Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday slammed the West’s “direct attempts” which he says are aimed at “hindering the development” of its national energy flagship Gazprom, which has been the target of international sanctions for a year.
“Despite unfair competition — to be clear — and direct outside attempts to hamper and slow down its development, Gazprom is moving forward and launching new projects,” Putin said in a video conference speech marking the gas giant’s 30th anniversary.
These comments come as Russia’s gas sector has suffered the brunt of European and American sanctions imposed in retaliation for the Kremlin’s military intervention in Ukraine.
According to official figures, gas exports fell by 25.1% in 2022, with the European Union, once the largest buyer of Russian gas, drastically reducing its imports last year.
Although Europeans have all but stopped importing Russian gas via pipelines, they continue to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is transported by sea on LNG tankers.
Faced with a European market virtually closed to it, Gazprom, which has a monopoly on Russian gas exports via gas pipelines, has made a strategic shift in recent months, diverting some of its exports to Asia, where energy demand is strong.
Gas supplies to China via the Force of Siberia gas pipeline in the Russian Far East reached an all-time high last year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Alexander Novak said on Monday.
But some observers believe that it is more difficult for Russia to divert its exports for gas than for oil, which is also heavily sanctioned because the necessary infrastructure (gas pipeline, factories and LNG carriers for LNG, etc.) is particularly expensive and takes time to build .
Gazprom plans to start construction of a new gas pipeline “Siberian Force 2” to northwest China in 2024.
With almost half a million employees, Gazprom, which has the world’s largest gas reserves, is “one of the engines” of Russian national growth, Vladimir Putin finally recalled on Friday.