STORY: The biggest pipeline supplying Russian gas to Germany just shut down for maintenance.
That would normally be a routine event, but not this year.
Governments and firms around the region are worried about when or whether the Nord Stream pipeline might reopen.
It’s due to restart on July 21, but many fear that could be delayed.
Moscow has already cut flows through the pipeline to 40% of its usual capacity, blaming the late return of equipment being serviced.
Now many fear that Russia might extend maintenance to further restrict gas supplies.
That could send prices rocketing even further for companies and consumers.
It would also wreck plans to top up gas storage facilities ahead of the winter.
In the event of an emergency gas shortage, German regulator Klaus Mueller says authorities would weigh up how to allocate supplies:
“Should there be a gas emergency we will take differentiated decisions on large gas consumers but this will only be possible from October, based on an IT system. We would look at economic damages, economic consequences, the impact on supply chains and social dimensions."
Russia has dismissed all claims that it is using gas to exert pressure on Europe.
But German economy minister Robert Habeck says the EU should be ready for a prolonged outage for Nord Stream.
There are other gas pipelines from Russia, but those too have seen declining flows.
Ukraine shut down one that crosses its territory, citing interference by Russian forces.