Russia’s gas production has suffered yet another collapse this year, reaching numbers not seen since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gazprom announced.
The state energy giant’s latest report showed production dropped by 24.7 percent to 179.49 billion cubic meters (BCM) in the first quarter of the year.
The drop comes as European nations continue on their path to find alternatives to Russian supplies following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and amid a swathe of sanctions seeking to cripple Moscow’s finances.
Gazprom said the drop was the result of the West’s efforts to reduce dependence on Russian gas as well as “the adoption in a number of countries of politically motivated decisions aimed at abandoning the import of Russian gas.”
Russian-language news outlet Agentstvo said the state energy company “has never had such a low production rate in its entire history”, noting that “the last time there was a similar figure was in the Soviet Union in 1978.”
The independent outlet added that “since then, the production of gas ‘has only grown’,” as the Soviet Union could count on gas fields in Ukraine and Uzbekistan to ramp up numbers until the dissolution of the USSR.
Several nations across the world, namely the United States and most of the European Union, have sought to isolate the Kremlin by cutting Russia off the SWIFT banking system as well as freezing the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
The invasion sparked concerns about Europe’s ability to wean off Russian gas and oil, leading to an energy crunch in the winter months as nations turned to seaborne liquified natural gas (LNG) from alternative suppliers.
Vladimir Putin repeatedly accused the West of trying to limit Russia’s gas industry but insisted Gazprom was “moving forward and launching new projects” to increase production and sales.
Experts argued that Putin had expected to use the threat of cutting off the gas flow into Europe to dissuade anyone from aiding Ukraine in fighting off his invasion.
But Berlin-based analyst Thomas O’Donnell argued the Russian President’s plan had ultimately failed as the continent managed to move to alternative suppliers – albeit with some initial difficulties.
O’Donnell told Newsweek: “That aspect of Putin’s planned energy war has backfired. He prepped for a year before the invasion to keep EU storage empty and then have maximum blackmail leverage by selectively cutting and supplying to EU states—but it failed.”
The European Union (EU) was a particular target of Putin’s strategy due to Volodymir Zelensky’s overtures to join the bloc but his plans were once again thwarted as Norway and Qatar stepped in to provide new supplies.
The expert said the new sources of gas made it so that “the EU didn’t have to cave in when Putin cut the gas flows.”
“For Moscow, without new, hugely expensive pipelines all the way to China, this huge Russian gas resource will remain a stranded asset,” he added.
Concerns about gas appear to be at the forefront of the Kremlin’s mind, as a key ally of Putin earlier in the week appeared to suggest Moscow is prepared to target refineries in The Netherlands to cut off European supplies.
Appearing on state TV, Russian Parliament member Andrey Gurulyov said he was “surprised” to learn that “almost 50 percent of oil refining is in the Netherlands,” and that the distribution of the refineries is “very dense and very close to each other. Very dense.”
His assessment prompted propagandist Vladimir Solovyov to point out that the Netherlands would be “a perfect target for a cluster munition.”
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