MOSCOW (AFP): Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday it was “impossible” to isolate Moscow and vowed to cut gas and oil deliveries to countries imposing a price cap on supplies.
Speaking at an economic forum, over six months after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine, the Russian leader sought to pivot towards allies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa as his country faces a barrage of Western sanctions.
“No matter how much someone would like to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do this,” Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia s Pacific port city of Vladivostok.
He said the coronavirus pandemic has been replaced by other global challenges “threatening the whole world”, including “sanctions fever in the West”.
Putin has repeatedly said Russia s economy is weathering the barrage of sanctions well, as the Kremlin s ties with the West sink to new lows.
On Wednesday, he vowed to cut off any countries imposing price caps on oil and gas exports, just as the European Union proposed to do just that.
Capping prices “would be an absolutely stupid decision”, Putin said.
“We will not supply anything at all if it is contrary to our interests, in this case economic (interests),” he said.
“No gas, no oil, no coal, no fuel oil, nothing.”
Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian supplies, has accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon and on Wednesday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen proposed that member states agree a price cap.
G7 industrialised powers pledged Friday to move urgently towards implementing a price cap on Russian oil imports, in a bid to cut off a major source of funding for Moscow s military action in Ukraine.
“Those who are trying to impose something on us are in no position today to dictate their will,” Putin said.
“They should come to their senses.”
Von der Leyen s remarks come days after Russia closed the key Nord Stream pipeline to Europe, saying it would be under repair for an indefinite period of time.
“They say that Russia uses energy as a weapon. More nonsense! What weapon do we use? We supply as much as required according to requests” from importers, Putin told the economic forum.
“Give us a turbine, we will turn Nord Stream on tomorrow,” Putin said.
The Kremlin insists sanctions have prevented the proper maintenance of Russian gas infrastructure and, in particular, blocked the return of a Siemens turbine that had been undergoing repairs in Canada.
Russian energy giant Gazprom said Wednesday the EU nations had reduced Russia s gas deliveries by 48 percent since the start of 2022, with the reduction reaching 49 percent if Britain is included in the total.
– Colossal new opportunities –
Putin s participation in the forum in the Far East — a region with close geopolitical and economic ties to Russia s neighbours in Asia — comes a day after the Russian president oversaw large-scale military drills there.
The week-long Vostok-2022 manoeuvres, were concluding Wednesday and involved several Kremlin-friendly countries, including troops sent by Beijing.
As Moscow seeks to bolster ties with Asia — especially key ally China — Putin welcomed the growing role of the Asia-Pacific region in global affairs.
“The role… of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region has significantly increased,” he said at the forum, adding that partnerships will create “colossal new opportunities for our people”.
Putin was joined at Wednesday s forum by China s top legislator Li Zhanshu — who ranks third in the Chinese government hierarchy — with a bilateral meeting scheduled for later in the day.
The Russian leader is expected next week to hold an in-person meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who has not left China since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two leaders will meet at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) held in Uzbekistan on September 15 and 16, a Russian diplomat said Wednesday.
Beijing and Moscow have drawn closer in recent years, ramping up cooperation as part of what they call a “no limits” relationship, acting as a counterweight to the global dominance of the United States.
Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow s intervention in Ukraine, while Moscow was in full solidarity with Beijing during the visit in August of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi to self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers its territory.
In a sign of further rapprochement, Russia announced Tuesday that China will be switching from US dollars to the national currencies of the two countries — yuan and rubles — to pay for deliveries of Russian natural gas.