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Supply crisis forces UK to buy gas from Russia

Facing a “perfect storm” of energy supply crisis, the UK government has been forced to import gas from Russia, despite London’s role in a series of strict sanctions that were supposed to cripple the Russian energy industry.

The first natural gas shipment from the £20 billion Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic, which Russian President Vladimir Putin personally opened last week, is already on its way to the Isle of Grain import terminal in Kent, the media reported Wednesday.

The UK is currently dealing with severe wintry weather that has sparked flood alerts across the country while forcing schools to close for three days in some parts.

This and the shutdown of the North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline system due to an explosion at a major processing facility in Austria on Monday have sent the gas prices to their highest levels over the past six years.

The supply issues are also seen at other major facilities such as the Forties pipeline in Aberdeenshire and the Baumgarten facility in Austria.

The ageing Morecambe field, another key North Sea site, is also experiencing supply issues, putting out only around two million cubic meters (mcm) per day, less than half its usual rate of 5 mcm.

Meanwhile, BBL, the Dutch company that operates the pipeline connecting the Netherlands and the UK, limited on Tuesday supply for a short period of time because of problems with a compression station.

Norway’s energy giant Statoil also announced this week that a power outage had forced it to reduce output from its platform in Troll, Europe’s biggest offshore gas field. Norway is one of the UK’s main gas suppliers.

All of this has played into Russia’s hands, whom on many occasions have been accused of using its energy supplies to other nations as a political weapon.

The UK has played a key role in passing the European Union (EU)’s sanctions that ban Russian energy companies from finance or technology for certain projects, as a response to the 2014 reintegration of the Crimean Peninsula to Russia in a referendum.

A person close to Russia’s energy ministry said the UK’s decision to buy Russian gas makes the decision to back sanctions against Moscow “look like someone biting the hand that feeds him.”

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