Belgium is a hub for Russian gas: “a trade that lines Putin’s pockets”

EU countries are buying more Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) today than before the invasion of Ukraine, NGO Global Witness has found. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Belgium plays an important role in this large trade, being the third largest Russian customer.

“Between January and July 2023, EU countries bought 22 million cubic meters of LNG, compared to 15 million cubic meters in the same period in 2021, an increase of 40%”, writes the NGO. Based on Russian LNG prices, Global Witness predicts that EU purchases will amount to €5.29 billion in 2023.

The main companies participating in these purchases are Shell and Total Energies. Globally, the largest buyers of Russian gas in 2022 will be China (20% of Russian LNG sales), Spain (18%) and Belgium (17%).

Russia is ahead of Qatar and the US in gas supply to Zeebrugge

“Europe’s fossil gas-based energy system is a climate disaster and security risk because it funds hawkish regimes and fuels deadly extreme weather”, says Jonathan Noronha-Gant, head of fossil fuel campaigning at Global Witness. “The fact that national capitals are buying more LNG from Russia than before the war shows that we are not moving fast enough to replace gas with renewables. Governments must recognize the reality of our addiction to fossil gas and develop a contingency plan to eliminate it, starting with banning the Russian gas trade that lines Putin’s pockets.

At Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen), we qualify the figures reported by the NGO. Most of the Russian liquefied natural gas actually passes through the gas terminal in the port of Zeebroek, but this volume of gas is not purchased by Belgium or for Belgium. “Due to its central location in Western Europe and highly interconnected network infrastructure with neighboring countries, our country occupies a unique position and has become one of the preferred routes for transporting gas, especially in Germany, with the war in Ukraine. Belgium exports up to four times its own consumption.

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The environmentalist’s office points out that there are no restrictions on Russian gas. “There is no point in taking sanctions alone, they are effective if they are taken at the European level.” The minister’s group says that Belgium has supported other energy sanctions against Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine, and that Europe aims to free itself from energy dependence as quickly as possible.. “The war in Ukraine shows how dependent we are on fossil fuels and Putin. We can regain control of our energy by accelerating the energy transition.”

The share of Russian LNG in Belgian consumption is actually negligible. According to the FPS economic report published in the summer of 2023, only 2.8% of the gas consumed in Belgium comes from Russia. The main supplier countries are Norway (60.9%), Netherlands (13%), United Kingdom (9.3%) and France (3.6%).

It should be noted that gas is not the only product distributed.Kremlin Bags” Belgium continues to burn Russian oil and trade diamonds with Russian oligarchs. In 2022, 22.1% of crude oil imports came from Russia. However, this number is expected to decrease as the European Union bans Russian crude oil from shipping to third countries in December 2022.

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