The European Commission on Wednesday presented its plan to deal with rising gas prices, as Russian president Vladimir Putin denied his country is using energy as a political weapon against Europe.

The price of gas has increased six-fold in the last year, while electricity in the wholesale market is twice as expensive.

Europe imports most of its gas from Russia, which has been accused of deliberately raising prices to apply political pressure on the EU to fast track approval of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, which would bypass Ukraine, a key EU ally.

The Commission outlined a “toolbox for action and support” to tackle rising energy prices that the EU can use to address the impact of the surge in prices and boost the bloc’s ability to withstand any future shocks.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European companies,” Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said.

The EC will help member states take “immediate measures” to offset the impact on European households and companies this coming winter and will also provide medium-term measures to ensure that the bloc’s energy system is “more resilient and more flexible to withstand any future volatility throughout the transition”.

Brussels insists that there is enough gas to get through the winter, as European countries' reserves are at 76% compared to the usual 90% average for the season, and the pace of refueling is advancing rapidly.

The Commission is also confident that the price peak will pass in April, when the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is expected to start operating.

Speaking at a forum in Moscow on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin denied that Russia was using gas prices as a political weapon, dismissing those allegations as “political tittle-tattle” and blaming Europe for not storing enough gas after a particularly cold winter.

“Over the last 10 years, systematic failures have been introduced step by step into the European energy system and this has led to a massive energy crisis,” Putin said. EFE

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