Russia suspends gas supplies after deadly prison strike

Move comes day after bombing of jail holding Ukrainian prisoners of war left scores dead



By AFP

Published: Sat 30 Jul 2022, 4:10 PM

Russian energy giant Gazprom Saturday suspended gas supplies to Latvia, a day after a jail holding Ukrainian prisoners of war was bombed leaving scores dead.

"Today, Gazprom suspended its gas supplies to Latvia... due to violations of the conditions" of purchase, the company said on Telegram.

Gazprom drastically cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 per cent of its capacity. It had reduced gas flows to Europe twice in June.

The Russian state-run company had earlier announced it would choke supply to 33 million cubic metres a day - half the amount it has been delivering since service resumed last week after 10 days of maintenance work.

European Union states have accused Russia of squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow's intervention in Ukraine.

Gazprom cited the halted operation of one of the last two operating turbines for the pipeline due to the "technical condition of the engine".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has blamed EU sanctions for the limited supply.

The EU this week agreed on a plan to reduce gas consumption in solidarity with Germany, where the Nord Stream pipeline runs to, warning of Russian "blackmail".

Russian strikes continued to rain down on Ukrainian towns and cities on Saturday, a day after Russia's defence ministry accused Kyiv of striking a prison in Russian-held territory with US-supplied long-range missiles, in an "egregious provocation" designed to stop captured soldiers from surrendering.

It said Saturday that the dead included Ukrainian forces who had surrendered after weeks of fighting off Russia's brutal bombardment of the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol.

The defence ministry said 50 Ukrainian prisoners were killed and 73 were taken to hospital with serious injuries, adding: "All political, legal and moral responsibility for this bloody massacre of Ukrainians lies with (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky personally, his criminal regime and Washington which backs them."

Zelensky laid the blame squarely on Russia.

"This was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war," he said. "Over 50 are dead."

Zelensky said an agreement for the Azovstal fighters to lay down their arms, brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, included guarantees for their health and safety and called on those two organisations to intervene as guarantors.

Zelensky also urged the international community, especially the United States, to have Russia officially declared as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The mayor of the southern city of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Sienkevych, said one person died and six were injured following Russian shelling in two residential districts overnight Saturday.

The death toll from a strike on a Mykolaiv bus stop on Friday climbed to seven after two men died in hospital, he added.

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, three Russian S-300 missiles struck a school, mayor Igor Terekhov said on Telegram, adding that the main building was destroyed.

A Ukrainian spokesman said resistance forces had set fire to grain fields around Mariupol.

"The Mariupol Resistance forces set fire to the fields with grain so that it would not be stolen by the occupiers. The fire can probably spread to the Russian military base... There are Russian fortifications, ammunition warehouses and minefields disposed close to the area of fire," Sergiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odessa Regional Military Administration said.

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Zelensky on Friday visited a port in southern Ukraine to oversee a ship being loaded with grain for export under a UN-backed plan aimed at getting millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain stranded by Russia's naval blockade to world markets.

Ukraine's presidency said exports could start in the "coming days".

In a separate development, S&P Global Ratings on Friday cut Ukraine's long-term debt grade by three notches, saying a recently announced plan to defer payments means a default is "a virtual certainty".

A group of Western countries last week gave their green light to Kyiv's request to postpone interest payments on its debt and called on other creditors to do so as well.


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