© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Firefighters work to extinguish a residence following a Russian military attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine’s Donetsk region, July 19, 2022, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues building fire. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
KHArkIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia reopened its largest natural gas pipeline to Germany on Thursday at less than half its normal capacity after a maintenance shutdown, sparking fears of an energy shortage in Europe, while In Ukraine, shells crashed into the market, killing three people.
The resumption of gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany ends a tense day in Europe, during which politicians expressed concern that Russia could shut down the pipeline entirely after shutting it down for repairs.
But with inflows still dwindling, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused Russia of blackmailing Europe over energy. The Kremlin denies this, blaming European sanctions for causing damage and complicating maintenance of the pipeline.
The prospect of European energy supply disruptions is one of the biggest global economic and political risks from the war, nearly five months since Russia invaded Ukraine. European countries fear they could face shortages next winter if Russia cuts deliveries during the warmer months when tanks are usually replenished.
“(President Vladimir) Putin’s goal is to destabilize, drive up prices, divide society and weaken support for Ukraine,” Habeck said. “We’re not going to succumb to it, but counteract it with focused and concerted action. We’re taking precautions so we can get through the winter.”
blood and fire
Inside Ukraine, Kyiv has accused the Russians of intensifying their crackdown on the city in recent weeks, deliberately terrorizing its population. Moscow denies intentional attacks on civilians and says all its targets are military.
Shells hit a crowded market in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. A woman sobbed next to her husband’s body lying near a stall as a couple tried to comfort her. Other residents stood around the blood-stained market, stunned.
“We saw people covered in blood. We saw people on fire,” said local entrepreneur Khaibar Karimi. “We helped get the wounded to the subway, the smoke was thick and there were a lot of wounded on the street.”
The district attorney’s office said three people were killed and 23 wounded in shelling in two areas. Kharkiv State Police Chief Volodymyr Tymoshko said there were no military targets nearby.
The main front has largely been frozen since Russian troops captured the last two Ukrainian-held cities east of Luhansk in massive fighting in late June and early July.
But Russia is shelling neighboring Donetsk province, which Ukraine says is preparing for potential new developments there. Russia’s goal is to completely occupy Donetsk and Luhansk on behalf of its separatist proxies.
Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian missile strikes destroyed two schools in the Ukrainian-controlled cities of Kramatorsk and Kostiantinivka, and also attacked Bakhmut city, but there is no information on casualties.
“It wasn’t until now that my teeth were shaking with fear that I decided to leave,” Lidia, 64, a resident of the eastern town of Soledar, later boarded Pokrovsk. A train in the town told Reuters. On Wednesday, fleeing fighting in Donetsk province.
“What am I waiting for, I got hit in the head by a cannonball?”
Katerina, who was traveling with her children, said she fled the town of Sievierodonetsk before being captured by Russian troops.
“Giving up your house is the worst thing ever. I feel so empty,” she said. “How are we going to live?”
Russia said its forces destroyed the headquarters of the Ukrainian SBU intelligence service in Kramatorsk and shot down a Ukrainian SU-25 military aircraft nearby. It said it also attacked Ukrainian artillery positions and weapons depots near Kostiantynivka.
Russia says it uses high-precision weapons against military targets, but the war has leveled cities, especially in Russian-speaking regions of eastern and southeastern Ukraine.
Reduce natural gas demand
Germany has unveiled measures to reduce demand for natural gas, including suspending minimum temperature requirements in apartment rental contracts and drawing on Germany’s coal reserves.
Nord Stream 1 traditionally exports more than a third of Russia’s natural gas to Europe.
“Given the 60 percent loss and political instability, the reasons are not yet fully clear,” said Klaus Mueller, chairman of Germany’s cyber watchdog. Europe, which includes France, Austria and the Czech Republic, said the regulator said Other countries will also be affected.
The European Commission is proposing member states to cut gas use by 15% in preparation for possible supply cuts, although some governments oppose the plan.
Moscow said it sent troops to Ukraine to root out nationalists and prevent NATO from using Ukraine to threaten Russia. Kyiv and its allies called it an unprovoked war of conquest.
Ukraine hopes Western weapons, especially long-range missiles such as the U.S. HIMARS deployed in Kyiv in recent weeks, will allow it to retake Russian-occupied territory.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said London would send dozens of artillery pieces, more than 1,600 anti-tank weapons and hundreds of drones to Ukraine.
British military intelligence said Russian troops may be shutting down Ukraine’s second-largest power plant in Vuhlehirska, Donetsk province.
It said the occupation of Soviet-era coal-fired power plants appeared to be part of a push toward the province’s main Ukrainian-controlled cities of Kramatorsk and Slovensk.
The governor of the southern Nikolaev region, Vitaly Kim, said the region was hit by seven S-300 missiles. One person was injured and infrastructure was damaged, he said.
Several explosions were also heard in the Russian-controlled southern region of Kherson overnight through Thursday, TASS news agency reported.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.