European gas prices have dropped after a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Gazprom officials.
The Russian president instructed the country’s state-controlled natural gas company to pump more supplies into the EU, prompting the immediate fall in prices on Thursday.
Europe’s gas prices have soared in recent weeks amid strong demand during the economic recovery from the pandemic. European Union stocks were also depleted after a cold winter.
During a call with officials on Wednesday, Putin told Alexei Miller -- the head of Gazprom -- to start pumping gas into the company’s storage facilities in the bloc.
The natural gas giant was told to supply storage units in Austria and Germany after November 8, by which time Russia's domestic depots are expected to be filled.
"This will make it possible to fulfil our contractual commitments in a reliable, stable, and consistent manner and to supply our European partners with gas in the autumn and winter," Putin said.
"This will create a favourable situation — at any rate, a better situation in the European energy market in general," he added.
The 27-member state Union currently depends on Russia for more than 40 per cent of its gas imports.
While Gazprom has met its obligations under long-term agreements, it has not sold additional gas on the EU spot market, opting to fill domestic storage.
Some European politicians alleged that Russia was withholding gas deliberately to pressure German and EU authorities into speeding final regulatory approval for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
"To some extent, it's probably true to say Putin has taken advantage of the situation of high prices and perceived shortages to suggest that if you approve Nord Stream 2 which has now been packed with gas, then that will resolve the situation," said Mike Fulwood from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies."
"However, I think it's probably not fair, as some people have done, to accuse Russia of actually withholding gas from the market. They've had their own issues this year with a cold winter, high demand and recovery from COVID," the expert told Euronews.
On Thursday, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Russia of exerting political pressure on Moldova.
"If prices increase — not in Europe, but in the whole world — it is not, in general terms, a consequence of weaponisation of the gas supplies. In the case of Moldova, yes, it is," he said.
"Certainly, the gas issue is not just a Moldovan issue, but in the case of Moldova, it has political characteristics that have to be very much taken into account."
The European Commission announced on Wednesday that it would make available €60 million to help Moldova deal with the current energy shortage.
"The European Union stands ready to support Moldova to find a way out of this crisis," Borrell said.
Watch the full interview with Mike Fulwood from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies in the video player above.