MOSCOW: Russia has halted gas deliveries to Germany via a key pipeline for an indefinite period, after saying it found problems in a key piece of equipment, a development that would worsen Europe's energy crisis.
Russian gas giant Gazprom said on Friday the Nord Stream pipeline, which was due to reopen at the weekend, would remain shut until a turbine is repaired.
In a statement, the firm indicated it had discovered "oil leaks" in a turbine during a planned three-day maintenance operation.
It added that "until it is repaired...the transport of gas via Nord Stream is completely suspended."
Resumption of deliveries via the pipeline, which runs from near Saint Petersburg to Germany under the Baltic Sea, had been due to resume on Saturday.
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According to Gazprom, the problems were found while performing maintenance with representatives of Siemens, which manufactured the turbine in a compressor station that pushes gas through the pipeline.
On its Telegram page, it published a picture of cables covered in a brown liquid.
Earlier in the day, the Kremlin warned the future operation of the pipeline, one of Gazprom's major supply routes, was at risk due to a lack of spare parts.
"There are no technical reserves. Only one turbine is working," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"So the reliability of the operation — of the whole system — is at risk," he said, adding that it was "not through the fault" of Gazprom.
Turbine maker Siemens Energy said in a statement that the oil leaks blamed by Gazprom were "not a technical reason for stopping operation."
"Such leakages do not usually affect the operation of a turbine and can be sealed on site," it said, adding that it was "not contracted for maintenance work."
Following the imposition of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has reduced or halted supplies to different European nations, causing energy prices to soar.
The Kremlin has blamed the reduction of supplies via Nord Stream on European sanctions, which it says have blocked the return of a Siemens turbine that had been undergoing repairs in Canada.
Germany, which is where the turbine is located now, has said Moscow is blocking the return of the critical piece of equipment.
Berlin previously accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon.
Gazprom's announcement comes as the Group of Seven said it would work to quickly implement a price cap on Russian oil exports, a move that would starve the Kremlin of critical revenue for its war effort.
Gazprom also announced the suspension of gas supplies to France's main provider Engie from Thursday after it failed to pay for all deliveries made in July.
As winter approaches, European nations have been seeking to completely fill their gas reserves, secure alternative supplies, and put into place plans to reduce consumption.
A long-term halt to Russian gas supplies would complicate efforts by some nations to avoid shortages and rationing, however.
Germany said on Friday its gas supplies were secure despite the halt to deliveries via Nord Stream.
"The situation on the gas market is tense, but the security of supply is guaranteed," a spokesman for the Central European nation's economy ministry said in a statement.
She did not comment on the "substance" of Gazprom's announcement, but said Germany had "already seen Russia's unreliability in the past few weeks."
German officials have in recent times struck a more positive tone about the coming winter.
Before the latest shutdown, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was now "in a much better position" in terms of energy security, having achieved its gas storage targets far sooner than expected.
Europe as a whole has also been pushing ahead with filling its gas storage tanks, while fears over throttled supplies have driven companies to slash their energy usage.