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The EU is set to import a record volume of liquified natural gas (LNG) from Russia this year, with Belgium and Spain in the lead, the Global Witness reported on Aug. 30.
The bloc's member states spent almost 5.3 billion euros ($5.8 billion) to buy 22 million cubic meters of LNG in the first seven months of 2023 despite the EU's goal to cut off Russian fuels by 2027, the organization said with reference to an industry analytics company Kpler.
The volumes imported by Spain and Belgium make these countries currently the second and third-biggest buyers of Russian LNG respectively, right behind China.
As Global Witness pointed out, the volume purchased this year constitutes a 40% increase compared to the same period in 2021. Between January and July 2023, the EU countries bought 52% of Russia's total exports, compared to 49% in 2022 and 39% in 2021.
According to the Financial Times, EU imports of Russian LNG were relatively low prior to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine as European countries relied instead on gas coming through pipelines.
Since 2022, the EU set the goal of weaning off itself from Russian gas supplies, as well as other fossil fuels. Using the dependency of European countries on Russian imports, Moscow has several times reduced or cut off the gas flow to undermine the EU's support for Ukraine.
However, despite being hooked on Russian gas for years, Europe reduced the pipeline gas imports and decreased the share of Russian gas in the EU's energy mix from 40% to 10% within a year.
In May, the EU and G7 agreed to ban Russian gas imports on routes where Moscow has cut supplies before, in order to prevent the restart of Russian pipeline gas exports on routes to countries such as Poland and Germany.
While the EU has not yet put restrictions on Russian LNG, Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said that the decision will be made "sooner than later."
Profits from fossil fuels have traditionally constituted a substantial segment of Russia's revenue, feeding the Kremlin's war effort against Ukraine.