By Matthias Williams and Thomas Escritt
BERLIN (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin is using energy and hunger as weapons but has failed to break the West’s unity and will not achieve his war aims through scorched earth tactics, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday.
Speaking to parliament, Scholz also said Germany had freed itself from dependence on Russian gas and was working to bring energy prices down, but warned that the EU imposing a gas price cap risked back-firing.
The Russian army has pummelled Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent days, causing blackouts and prompting Ukraine to introduce curbs on electricity usage for the first time since the Russian invasion in February.
Russia has denied targeting civilians.
“We will not let Moscow’s latest escalation go unanswered … Scorched earth tactics will not help Russia win the war. They will only strengthen the unity and resolve of Ukraine and its partners,” Scholz told parliament.
“All the lies and propaganda, the talk of ‘special operations’ and swift victories – all that was just a facade, like a Potemkin village.”
Scholz was speaking as the leaders of the 27 European Union countries prepared to meet for the second time in two weeks to try to bring down energy prices, though divisions persist over moves to cap gas prices.
The 27 are expected to back an alternative price benchmark for liquefied natural gas and joint gas buying.
But they remain split on whether and how to cap gas prices to stem high inflation and stave off recession, after Russia cut gas flows following its invasion of Ukraine.
While 15 countries including France and Poland push some form of a cap, they face strong opposition from Germany and the Netherlands – respectively Europe’s biggest economy and gas buyer, and a major European gas trading hub.
Scholz said that a politically imposed gas price gap risked driving producers to sell their gas elsewhere, meaning the EU could receive less gas as a result.
“The EU must coordinate closely with other gas consumers like Japan and Korea so as not to be in competition with each other,” he said.
“At the same time we are also talking with producers about an appropriate price. I am convinced: countries like the U.S., Canada or Norway, who stand with us on Ukraine’s side, have an interest in Europe’s energy not becoming unaffordable.”
(Reporting by Matthias Williams and Thomas Escritt, editing by Rachel More and Nick Macfie)