In a bid to shift away from dependence on Russian oil and gas, the European Union (EU) has started importing gas from other international suppliers, including Azerbaijan, a country now attacking a region home to religious and ethnic minorities, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The EU cut Russian gas imports in half from 2021 to 2022 and replaced the loss with gas from other countries, including the U.K., Algeria, the U.S., Qatar and Azerbaijan, according to the WSJ. Azerbaijan has installed a resource blockade against Nagorno-Karabakh, a small region of Asia made up of mostly ethnic Armenians, and launched a full-scale military operation against the area on Tuesday, reportedly shelling villages and killing multiple civilians. (RELATED: Country Accused Of ‘Genocide’ Begins Military Offensive, Shelling Against Armenia)
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) September 19, 2023
Russia supplied 45% of the EU’s gas imports before it started throttling exports in March 2022 at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, according to the WSJ. The EU scrambled to find new oil partners as the global energy crisis was further strained by COVID-19, which initially cratered natural gas prices and investments during the pandemic, leaving producers unprepared for distribution when lockdowns finally lifted.
“We started immediately to connect with our neighbors, particularly the ones with the quickest possibility to react, like Algeria,” Guido Brusco, CEO of Italian energy company Eni, said to the WSJ.
“We pushed the accelerator to the maximum,” said Alessandro Tiani, Eni’s managing director in Algeria, to the WSJ.
The London-based oil company BP is helping spearhead efforts to increase oil production in Azerbaijan, the WSJ reported. Gas exports out of Azerbaijan to the EU rose from 8.7 billion cubic meters in 2021 to 12.2 billion in 2022, and the country is ahead of schedule to double exports by 2027, according to Azeri officials.
In December 2022, Azerbaijan imposed a blockade against Karabakh, which houses roughly 120,000 ethnic Armenians. The blockade has prevented imports of food, medicine and oil, effectively starving Armenians of vital resources.
Azerbaijan launched military and “anti-terrorist” operations in Karabakh on Tuesday morning, claiming that it was part of a larger effort to “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” according to the country’s defense ministry. Footage taken from inside Karabakh depicts shelling against military positions and the aftermath of bombings from inside Stepanakert, the region’s capital.
“My three children are wounded, one is with Russians. I don’t know how my child is. I cannot talk” – mother in Artsakh.
— Anush Mkhitaryan (@Haybaji) September 19, 2023
So far, 25 people, including two civilians, have been killed in the attacks, and 138 others, including 29 civilians and children, were left wounded, according to a Karabakh official. Armenia’s foreign ministry said that Azerbaijan was using the “anti-terrorist” operation as a front to commit “ethnic cleansing” against Armenians, according to a statement released Tuesday.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council, BP and Eni did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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