The European Union on Wednesday asked member states to reduce their gas consumption by 15% until March as part of a contingency plan after President Vladimir Putin warned that Russian supplies sent via the largest pipeline to Europe could be further reduced.

Deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which accounts for more than a third of Russian gas exports to the EU, are due to resume on Thursday after a 10-day hiatus for annual maintenance.

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But supplies via this route had been reduced even before the disputed maintenance shutdown on the sanctioned parties, and may now be further reduced, while flows via other routes, such as Ukraine, have also decreased since Russia invaded its neighbor in February.

The disruptions have hampered Europe’s efforts to fill gas reservoirs ahead of winter, raising the risk of rationing and another blow to fragile economic growth if Moscow further restricts flows in retaliation for Western wartime sanctions in Ukraine.

The European Commission has proposed a voluntary target for all EU states to reduce their gas consumption by 15% from August to March, compared to their average consumption during the same period in 2016-2021.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia uses energy as a weapon. And so, in any case, whether it is a partial and major cut off of Russian gas or a total cut off of Russian gas , Europe must be ready,” he added. said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The proposal would allow Brussels to make the target mandatory in the event of a supply emergency, if the EU declares a substantial risk of severe gas shortages.

This decision, which requires the support of EU states, will be discussed on Friday, so that ministers can approve it at an emergency meeting on July 26.