By Sibel Morrow
ANKARA (AA) - The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) accused Russia of exacerbating Europe's natural gas crisis by causing high prices and low storage levels.
Speaking to reporters in Paris on Wednesday, Fatih Birol blamed Russia's state-owned gas supplier, Gazprom, for unprecedentedly low gas storage levels in Europe.
According to Birol, Gazprom supplied around 25% less gas to Europe in recent months than it usually does.
Russia's decision to decrease natural gas exports to European markets came amid heightened energy demand in the post-pandemic economic recovery.
"We believe there are strong elements of tightness in the European gas market due to Russia’s behavior," Birol said.
"I would note that today's low Russian gas flows to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine."
Existing pipelines could allow Russia to deliver up to a third more gas, which would equate to about 10% of daily consumption in Europe, Birol said.
The energy crisis that unfolded in 2021 led to natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices surging to record highs.
Natural gas prices in Europe increased by over 900% since January 2021 due to factors including higher demand as economies re-open, rising competition for gas between Europe and Asia, a hotter summer and colder winter, and a coal crunch in China that led to a spike in global demand for gas.