Gazprom has threatened to cut gas flows to Europe via Ukraine next week, as winter temperatures push Europeans to start using up their gas stocks.
The Ukrainian route is the last pipeline still carrying Russian gas to western Europe, as Moscow has gradually squeezed supplies to the continent since before the war.
Traders and policy makers are bracing for lower flow on that line as well, and gas prices only rose 2% on the news.
The Russian producer said that some of the gas shipments that were supposed to be transported to Moldova were being held in Ukraine. Gazprom also threatened that it would limit gas transit shipments starting from November 28 in proportion to shipments that do not reach consumers in Moldova.
There are fears in Europe that the problem with Moldova may be the beginning of a full lockdown, as disagreements over contract terms and regulation have been a feature of the breakdown in economic relations between Russia and the West. Although stocks that are fuller than usual provide a form of protection; a winter without any Russian gas will be difficult for Europe.
Gazprom said that, according to its estimates; Ukraine has so far seized 52.52 million cubic meters of gas that was supposed to reach Moldova. If these imbalances remain, Gazprom will begin to reduce gas supplies to Ukraine starting November 28.
Gazprom currently sends about 43 million cubic meters per day to Europe via Ukraine, the last remaining route to Western European markets.
Since last October, Gazprom has reduced gas flows to Moldova to 5.7 million cubic meters per day, and has pledged to maintain it at that level next month as well.
Benchmark futures added as much as 4.2%, before cutting those gains, which are almost 4 times more than usual for this time of year.
though; Europe is now in a comfortable position with significant LNG exports and lower industrial demand amid high prices, which helps offset the effects of several months of shrinking Russian supplies.