MOSCOW   -   Russia has completely halted gas supplies to Europe via a major pipeline, saying repairs are needed. The Russian state-owned energy giant, Gazprom, said the restrictions on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would last for the next three days.

Russia has already significant­ly reduced gas exports via the pipeline. It denies accusations it has used energy supplies as a weapon of war against Western countries. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline stretches 1,200km (745 miles) under the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast near St Peters­burg to north-eastern Germany.

It opened in 2011, and can send a maximum of 170 million cubic metres of gas per day from Russia to Germany.

The pipeline was shut down for 10 days in July - again for repairs, according to Russia and has recently been operating at just 20% capacity because of what Russia describes as faulty equipment.

The president of Germany’s network regulator has said the country will be able to cope - if Russia resumes delivery in the coming days.

“I assume that we will be able to cope with it,” Klaus Mueller told Reuters. “I trust that Russia will return to 20% on Saturday, but no one can really say.” Euro­pean leaders fear Russia could extend the outage in an attempt to drive up gas prices, which have already risen sharply in the past year.

However, today’s announce­ment was not expected to impact prices immediately. The UK’s main natural gas price was in fact down by more than 15% on mar­kets, as of 14:00 BST on Wednes­day. The steep rise threatens to create a cost of living crisis over the winter months, potentially forcing governments to spend billions to ease the burden. On Tuesday, French Energy Transi­tion Minister Agnes Pannier-Ru­nacher accused Russia of “using gas as a weapon of war”.

She was speaking after Gaz­prom said it would suspend gas deliveries to the French energy company Engie.