Russian gas flows to Germany rise despite Belarus threat

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A worker climbs a cylinder at a gas compressor station at the Yamal-Europe pipeline near Nesvizh, some 130 km (81 miles) southwest of Minsk December 29, 2006. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

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MOSCOW, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Russian gas flows through a key pipeline to Germany rose on Monday, with no sign that Belarus's president had acted on his threat to cut off supplies to the European Union as winter approaches.

Targeting gas supplies that heat millions of homes across Europe, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last week warned he could retaliate against any new EU sanctions over a migrant standoff on the Belarus-EU border by shutting the Yamal-Europe pipeline that crosses his country. read more

Russia is a major exporter of natural gas to Europe via Belarus and the Kremlin has made it clear it does not want to see any disruption in supplies. read more

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European spot gas prices were up 8.8% to 81.60 euros per megawatt hour by 1800 GMT on Monday, with the market still tight this year due to factors including low inventories and increased demand after the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Until recently, the lack of additional flows from Moscow - which was only delivering on its contractual volumes - was a major factor behind the surge in gas prices, and the market is closely following any potential disruptions to Russian flows.

Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) started refilling its European storage facilities last week, with flows coming mainly via Belarus and Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that a move to block gas flows to Germany would risk harming ties between Minsk and its key ally Moscow, adding that he would speak to Lukashenko on the issue.

Flows into Germany at the Mallnow metering point, which lies on the Polish border, were up to an hourly volume of over 12,454,248 kilowatt hours (kWh) on Monday, data from German network operator Gascade showed, above weekend volumes. read more

The gas transportation infrastructure in Belarus is owned by Gazprom. read more

On Monday, monthly auction results showed Gazprom had not booked any additional gas transit capacity via Ukraine and via the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline for December.

While largely ignoring monthly auctions, Gazprom books transit capacity at daily auctions from time to time when it sees additional requests from its customers.

"If necessary, we have the possibility to quickly book additional transport capacity, including via the Yamal-Europe, on the shorter basis," it said in emailed comments.

Russia has said more gas could flow to Europe once its newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline gets a green light from Germany to operate.

Nord Stream 2 is designed to bypass transit countries, particularly Ukraine, which has a history of gas pricing standoffs with Moscow.

The Kremlin said on Monday that a threat by Lukashenko to cut gas supplies would not result in Russia redirecting flows away from Belarus into the Nord Stream 2 once it is put into operation.

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Reporting by Katya Golubkova, Dmitry Antonov and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Jan Lopatka in Prague and Marwa Rashad in London; Editing by Toby Chopra and Jan Harvey

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